GETTING A WORLD THAT DOESN'T GET IT

DIVINE JUDGMENT

TOPIC 6

How can a God of love also be a God of eternal judgment?

Introduction

A central tenet of Christianity is that, for human beings, physical death is not the end of consciousness. Each and every human being who has ever lived will, after death, face an individual judgment by God.

This is, or should be, a completely awe-inspiring prospect. God’s judgment will take account of everything (thought, word and deed) that the person did during their earthly life, but it will hinge pre-eminently upon the person’s attitude towards Jesus Christ. Moreover, God’s judgment, once delivered, is irreversible. It will determine the person’s fate for eternity (Matthew 25:31-46).

Of all the teachings of Christianity that have fallen from favour in contemporary Australia, these are among the most frequently misunderstood and most vehemently attacked. That is why we have included this topic in the current CEC unit. Most Australians today do not “get” divine judgment.

Modern-day sceptics often complain along these lines: How is it “fair” that God (even if such exists) would judge any person favourably merely for having “believed” in God’s existence during their earthly life? Or – even more unthinkable – that He would judge any person unfavourably merely for having not so “believed”? The reward for a believer (eternal life in Heaven) would be grossly disproportionate to any “achievement” of the person during their earthly life. The punishment for an unbeliever (eternal suffering in Hell) would be grossly disproportionate to any “crime”.

A slightly more sophisticated sceptic might add that God is supposed to be loving. Indeed, that “God is love” (1 John 4:8). He or she would then ask: How can these notions be reconciled? The God of judgment that Christians worship is not loving, but arrogant, vindictive and cruel. Therefore, so this objection runs, “I prefer not to believe at all”.

These are formidable-sounding objections, and they need firm, measured, biblical answers. In doing so, it is essential to strike a balance between hope and fear. This unit attempts to meet those challenges, in two parts.

The first part focuses upon judgment and Hell. The tone is necessarily quite sombre. We unashamedly wish to evoke a sense of “reverent fear” (1 Peter 1:17; Matthew 10:28, Romans 3:18). The primary resource is a podcast/video featuring Gerard O’Brien and Roy Williams. Gerard and Roy raise and discuss many of the main secular objections to divine judgment, especially adverse judgment. Roy has also prepared a written list of short answers to common objections. The additional resources section contains material on an issue which is especially contentious, even in evangelical circles - the nature of Hell.

The second part of the topic will focus on Heaven. The tone there is much more joyful! We examine the “nuts and bolts” of what eternal life may actually entail, scotching in the process some popular misconceptions about Heaven.

The reality is how will you respond when you face death. Our third section features an article where he explains how his faith has deepened as he faces death earlier than he had expected.

HELL

Why Divine Judgment Makes Sense

This is a conversation between Gerard O’Brien and Roy Williams, traversing five broad issues concerning divine judgment.

1. Is death the end of everything? (0:50)

  • There is no God! Are you sure? (4:55)

  • Life after death in the Old and New Testaments (6:50)

  • Appeals to “reverent fear” in discussions on this topic (9:00)

2. Why would a loving God judge anyone adversely? (11:40)

  • What is sin? (13:00)

  • We all want justice and truth (15:55)

  • Jesus is the judge (18:20)

  • Adverse judgment of our (unbelieving) loved ones (20:55)

  • God’s mercy (25:35)

  • Jesus as our advocate (as well as our judge) (28:00)

3. Why belief in Jesus is a fair criterion for favourable judgment (32:10)

  • Balancing the good and evil done by each person would not be a sound alternative (32:30)

  • On the Christian view, it is never too late (in this life) to repent (35:25)

  • The free gift of faith (36:25)

4. People of other religions (38:10)

  • Nobody is truly innocent (38:25)

  • “Anonymous” Christians? (42:25)

5. Eternal conscious punishment in Hell for unbelievers? (49:40)

  • Orthodoxy defended (50:30)

  • Medieval stereotypes debunked (55:30)

  • Annihilationism discussed (58:50)

Closing thoughts (1:03:50)


Speakers: Rev. Gerard O’Brien, Roy Williams
Publisher: St Thomas’ Anglican Church, North Sydney

Originally published at: https://youtu.be/1d3emfRMGLY
Duration: 1:09.00
Date accessed: 18/02/2021

God of Love, God of Judgment

The speaker, Michael Ramsden, is the President of RZIM and one of the founders of the Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics.

Ramsden is at his engaging best here, grappling with the apparent tension between the idea of a God of love and a God of eternal judgment. He argues convincingly that the two ideas are reconcilable.

Among other key points, Ramsden explains that “true love exists not in the absence of judgment but in the presence of judgment”. He observes, too, that on earth “mercy is always exercised at the expense of justice”. Only God, in the afterlife, will dispense perfect justice, in love, grace and truth.


Speaker: Michael Ramsden
Publisher: CCF Makati
Originally published at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VU7hW1qbQEc
Duration: 44:32
Date accessed: 18/02/2021

Heaven

Rethinking Life After Death

N.T. Wright, an Anglican bishop, is one of the world’s leading New Testament scholars. This interview was conducted at Calvin College (now Calvin University) in Grand Rapids, Michigan. It focuses upon aspects of his book Surprised by Hope, originally published in 2008.

Topics addressed include:

  • The biblical meaning of “resurrection” (2:30)

  • The medieval skewing of notions of “Heaven” and “Hell” (6:50)

  • Heaven (or Paradise) as a place of temporary rest with Jesus after death (8:30)

  • The New Jerusalem as a place of permanent restored glory on Earth (9:35)

  • Distinguishing metaphor from literalism in the key biblical passages (12:20)

  • Problems with “Rapture” theory (14:10)

  • The “intertwining” of Heaven (God’s dimension) and Earth (God’s Creation) (15:40)

  • Divine Judgment, including as a cause for joy (17:55)

  • “Life after life after death” (23:00)


We note that N.T. Wright has some controversial views, especially with regards to justification. There was an important debate between him and John Piper through a number of publications back in the 2000s. We want to be clear that our endorsement of this interview is not an endorsement of all of N.T. Wright’s theology, and his teaching on justification in particular is not consistent with the teaching of St Thomas’.


Speaker: Bishop N.T. Wright
Publisher: Calvin College
Originally published at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rZC6tbgpsl4
Duration: 26:46
Date accessed: 18/02/2020



The Truth and Reality of a Physical Heaven We Can Look Forward To

Randy Alcorn is an American Protestant author. He founded Eternal Perspective Ministries, a non-profit Christian organization dedicated to teaching an eternal viewpoint and helping the needy of the world.

Alcorn’s monumental book Heaven, first published in 2004, has sold over 1 million copies. Many regard it as the best work ever written on the “nuts and bolts” of eternal life.

Speaker: Randy Alcorn
Publisher: Eternal Perspective Ministries
Originally published at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QlN_GdaaF6E
Duration: 42:50
Date accessed: 18/02/2021

Facing Death.... Growing Faith

How prepared are you for your own death? How deep is your faith? We selected this article by Timothy Keller, founder Redeemer Church New York City, because he provides deep insights into how facing death is somewhat different to what he had imagined. More importantly, he explores how his priorities have changed for he and his wife Kathy. God has used this experience to deepen the faith of this godly pastor. Keller also provides us with a practical approach that we can all use to deepen our faith.

Estimated Reading Time: 15 minutes

Author: Timothy Keller

Publisher: The Atlantic

QUICK ANSWERS TO NINE OBJECTIONS ABOUT JUDGEMENT

Objection 1: There is no judgment to fear because there is no God. There is no afterlife either. Death is the end of consciousness.

How can you be so sure? Are you really so sure? Be honest with yourself. If you are wrong, you are risking your fate for eternity!

The vast majority of human beings through history have believed in some form of God. If you’d like to know all the arguments for God’s existence, I can run through those now or give you some materials to watch or read.

But let’s focus on what happens after death. The vast majority of human beings through history have also believed in some form of afterlife. Jesus stressed that there is one.

Surely you wonder about this, at least occasionally? Most human beings, if they are being honest with themselves, harbor doubts about the afterlife. The Bible says that this is so because God has “set eternity in the human heart” (Ecclesiastes 3:11).

According to Shakespeare, doubt about the afterlife is one reason why suicide is not much more prevalent. Shakespeare described death as “the undiscovered country from whose bourne no traveller returns”. He added that death “puzzles the will, and makes us rather bear those ills we have, than fly to others that we know not of.” (Hamlet)

Objection 2: Judgment is a bad thing. It’s intolerant!

Your complaint is really about judgmentalism – by imperfect, hypocritical human beings who rarely know all the facts. The Bible denounces that sort of judgment (Matthew 7:1-3).

But fair, impartial, well-informed judgment is quite different. Think about it. Would you really want to live in a world without any human judgment? How can there be justice without judgment?

We rightly insist on justice being meted out in our courts of law. All of us, in their daily lives, routinely pass judgment on others (family, friends, work colleagues, etc.) and sometimes for reasons of genuine love (e.g., a parent or school teacher correcting a child for their own good).

In truth, human beings yearn for just judgment. We all are enraged when “righteous men get what the wicked deserve, and wicked men get what the righteous deserve” (Ecclesiastes 8:14)

So, what is the scarier prospect: that God will ultimately administer perfect justice, or that the grossly imperfect “justice” meted out by human beings on earth is the best we can ever hope for?

Objection 3: I’m a pretty good person. God would not presume to judge individuals like me.

For the purpose of honest argument, please can I ask you to assume that the God in which Christians believe actually exists – i.e., a Supreme Being who created the Universe (Genesis 1), who knows everything about you (Psalm 139), and who speaks to you as an individual through the wonders of nature and through your conscience (c.f. Romans 1:19-20, 2:14-16).

Now, therefore, would you not agree that the notion of divine judgment is entirely logical – and, what is more, entirely fair? At any rate, there’s nothing to be gained from complaining about it.

Why? Because it is God the Creator who “sets the rules” of His universe, not human beings (cf. Job 38). The clay pot can’t talk back to the potter who created it. God’s “rules” have been planted in your conscience, and are clearly laid down in the Bible. And because God knows everything, His judgment about you will be totally informed.

Also, try to be completely honest with yourself – are you really such a good person? Admit it – aren’t there things you’ve done or said or thought, big and small, of which you’re ashamed? Aren’t there things you’ve not done which a better person would have done? Let’s assume you’re a better person than most - isn’t there at least one thing which deserves judgment?

Objection 4: God’s judgment would not be fair because His moral standards are too high. He might know all about me, but He couldn’t empathise with me.

I repeat: there’s no point complaining about the standards that God has set.

But there’s another answer to your objection. This is one reason why the Christian God is so amazing. God can empathise with how hard it is for any human being to comply with His moral standards, because God lived on earth as a human being in the person of Jesus of Nazareth (c. 5 BC- c. AD 30). Jesus experienced temptation and suffering of every kind (Hebrews 4:15).

It’s vital to grasp what Christians believe about the New Testament: that it’s a totally reliable written record of what Jesus and his immediate followers did and taught. Among other things it teaches that Jesus will be our ultimate judge (John 5:22, John 5:27; Romans 2:16) and that Jesus is fully qualified for the role (2 Timothy 4:8). The New Testament also contains many examples of Jesus in “judgment mode”. There is no need to guess about how Jesus will approach the task.

Objection 5: Okay, God or Jesus has every right to judge me. And I admit that I’m far from perfect. But a God of love and empathy still would not judge me – and maybe anyone – adversely.

Yes, God is a God of love. But lovingness is not His sole attribute – the Bible teaches that God is also holy. Holy means “morally pure”.

God’s holiness is such that He cannot simply ignore or “tolerate” human sin. (Habakkuk 1:13) A great Christian writer (A.W. Tozer) explained it this way: “Holy is the way God is. To be holy He does not conform to a standard. He is that standard. … God has made holiness the moral condition necessary to the health of His universe.”

The hard truth is that because everyone has sinned – albeit to a greater or lesser extent – everyone stands in danger of being judged adversely by God. (Psalm 14; Romans 3:23) As another great Christian writer (Francis Schaeffer) once put it: “How could a perfect God say, ‘Just sin a little bit?’”

Objection 6: Okay, I stand at risk of adverse judgment. But surely the “test” won’t be whether I believed in God or not? I don’t believe God exists – but that’s because there’s not enough evidence. What’s so bad about that? Even if there is some kind of divine judgment, surely God will just balance the good I’ve done against the bad.

Would you really want to be judged by a balancing of the good and the bad you’ve done? Would anyone? A lot of people would long ago have passed a point of no return. Questions of motive, means and opportunity come into it too. With all due respect, I suspect that you and many others overrate the “good” you’ve done and underrate the bad. I know I do.

But the biggest problem with your position is that you are massively underrating the importance of God. You say there’s not enough evidence – but have you really, seriously, conscientiously studied all the evidence? What evidence do you need?

Once again, please can I ask you to assume that the God in which Christians believe actually exists – i.e., a Supreme Being who created the Universe (Genesis 1), knows everything about you (Psalm 139), and speaks to you as an individual through the wonders of Nature and through your conscience (cf. Romans 1:19-20, Romans 2:14-16).

Then imagine, that on Judgment Day, Jesus asked why you rarely if ever took the trouble to seek Him out, or to understand what He wanted of you. Do you honestly believe that “I didn’t get around to it” or “It didn’t interest me’” or even “the evidence didn’t persuade me” would be a satisfactory answer? No – your conscience can certainly tell you that much. The Bible says that everyone is “without excuse” (Romans 1:20)


Objection 7: I know some Christians who are horrible people. Okay, I know some nice ones too, but according to you they are sinners like me. So why do Christians go to Heaven? Surely not just because they believe that God exists?

You’re right. Christians are sinners too – even the best of us. We deserve to be judged by God adversely.

But a person is not a Christian merely because they believe in the existence of God – let alone because they say they do. That really would be unfair! God has not set “the bar” so low.

Faith is much more than mere intellectual belief (James 2:20). Faith is putting your full trust in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Real Christians demonstrate their faith constantly by the way they live their lives. I’m very happy to talk to you about what real faith is. It’s challenging but amazing - a wonderful way to live.


Objection 8: Do good people of other religious faiths go to Heaven? Do innocent babies? Do children who haven’t been raised as Christians? If they don’t, that’s so unfair! Lots of people have never heard of Christianity or are too young to understand it.

These are tricky issues, I admit. Christians have held different positions on them over the centuries.

But let’s examine a few of your assumptions. First, are there really many, or any, truly “good” people in the world – of whatever religious faith? There are certainly none who are morally perfect, or anything like it. Second, in the twenty-first century, are there really many people who have never heard of Christianity? It’s extremely hard to say that about any adult Australians today.

I’ll tell you what I believe, based on the Bible: ultimately, God will judge everybody justly. He will take all circumstances into account (age at death, upbringing, nationality, level of knowledge, etc.).

In the meantime, the focus of all Christians must be to tell as many people as possible about the Gospel. That’s the overwhelming message of the New Testament (cf. Matthew 28).


Objection 9: Okay, maybe genuine Christians go to Heaven. But surely the unsaved will not suffer eternal conscious torment in Hell? Surely I won’t suffer like Hitler or Stalin? If that’s what Christians believe, the whole thing is too ghastly for words.

Well, many Christians do believe in eternal conscious suffering. It’s a frightening idea to contemplate, yes. But if you assume that it’s true, it’s all the more reason to take Christianity seriously.

But don’t think that God will not discriminate between different categories of sinners – He will. That applies to Christians too, by the way (1 Corinthians 3:10-15, 2 Corinthians 5:10-11).

And I’d urge you not to be misled by stereotyped images of people literally burning up in fires, or boiling in oil, for squillions of years. That is not the Christian idea of Hell. The essence of Hell will be knowing that you deservedly missed your opportunity for eternal life in Heaven and that you will be separated from God forever. That it was your choice. That you got what you wanted – life without God (cf. 2 Thessalonians 2:5-9).

Some Christians hold a somewhat different idea of Hell. It’s still awful and final. But it does not involve the unsaved suffering eternal conscious torment. Rather, on this view, the unsaved will simply be “annihilated” – destroyed. At some stage after receiving their adverse judgment – and perhaps after enduring some suitable period of conscious punishment – they will cease to exist.

Whichever you look at things, the stakes are enormous. What is certainly at stake is the gift of eternal life in Heaven. The unsaved will lose out on that gift.

FOUR QUICK THINGS YOU CAN SAY ABOUT HEAVEN


Objection 1: The idea of Heaven just isn’t credible to me. Disembodied souls? Angels? All floating in clouds in the sky? It’s a fairytale!

Don’t be influenced by popular stereotypes about Heaven. For a start, forget the idea that it's all too ethereal. The Christian conception of eternal life is – in one way – quite prosaic. It involves God’s people ultimately being restored to bodily life here on earth. True, both our physical bodies, and the earth itself, will be transformed to an incorruptible state – and that is amazing to contemplate. But life will still be recognizably life.

Objection 2: Heaven doesn’t even sound all that good to me. Worshipping God forever – all the time?! It sounds positively tedious.

Again, you are thinking in stereotypes. And you are applying current human standards (church is boring!) to a future state, when saved humanity will be in the unmistakable presence of God, the creator of the universe. No doubt worship will be a big part of eternal life – how could it be otherwise? But “everyday life” will be richer than ever. In the words of N.T. Wright, “there will be new projects, new goals and new possibilities”.

Objection 3: Aren’t you telling me that unbelievers will be shut out of Heaven forever? How could I enjoy eternal life without the presence of beloved family and friends (i.e., those who didn’t believe in Jesus when they died)?

This is a difficult issue, I admit. It may be that once anyone has passed into eternal life, the entire experience will be so fulfilling that thoughts of deceased loved ones will no longer be present. Or, even if they are still present, that somehow they will not upset us. I don’t know. But we’re assured in the Bible that Heaven will be a place without mourning or crying or pain (Revelation 21:4).

If this issue worries you a lot, the best thing you can do by far is step up your attempts to evangelise, and pray for the people concerned.


Objection 4: How could I enjoy eternal life if I knew that some beloved family and friends (i.e., those who didn’t believe in Jesus when they died) were experiencing eternal conscious torment in Hell?

See Objection 3 above. Perhaps add:

You are making an assumption about the nature of Hell, which may be incorrect. There is a reasonable biblical argument that it’s not a place of eternal conscious torment; rather, that the ultimate fate of unbelievers is extinction. [See answer to objection 9 in the section above on Hell] If that’s right, and the saved are aware of the fact, then I imagine that we’ll be able to reconcile ourselves to the position. Our unsaved loved ones will have simply ceased to exist, having chosen not to accept the gift of eternal life. On the secular view of the world, that is precisely what happens to everyone.

SIX WAYS TO TURN DISCUSSION TO THE GOSPEL


Don’t take my word it

If you doubt anything I’ve said, I’d ask you to consider an infinitely greater authority than me: Jesus of Nazareth.

Who could be better qualified to talk about what happens after death than the only human being in recorded history who returned to life after he was dead? The founders of Christianity staked everything on that fact. (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:12-19)

And who could be better qualified to teach about divine judgment than the only human being in recorded history who claimed to be God Himself? Indeed, to top it off, Jesus also claimed to be the one who will judge us (John 5:22, John 5: 27).

These claims are astonishing but they are well documented in the Gospels and confirmed by lots of other evidence. Billions of people for almost 2000 years have believed them, and placed in their faith in Jesus accordingly. Why not read the Gospels for yourself?



There’s a solution!

The idea of divine judgment truly would be appalling if God had not offered us any ground for hope. If God’s favourable judgment was conditioned solely on our perfect adherence to His moral law, we would all be doomed. That might well be hard to reconcile with the notion of a loving God

But we do have grounds for hope; very strong grounds. God is also a God of wisdom, justice and mercy. The good news (the Gospel) is that God has anticipated what is far and away the biggest problem for human beings – that we are unable not to sin. That is why God sent Jesus to die for us on the cross – to atone for our sins, once for all. (Romans 5:8, 1 Peter 3:18)


What do I have to do?

You may be wondering: How, exactly, do individual human beings benefit from Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross? How, as it were, do we “tap into” it? The answer is to put your faith in Jesus and to continue in that faith come what may. (Acts 16:30-31, Colossians 1:19-23)

It works like this. Through faith in Jesus, we enjoy the promise of God’s grace: we are “justified” in His sight. At the Final Judgment, our sins will not be counted against us (2 Cor. 5:18-19); better still, because of our union with Jesus, His perfect holiness will be imputed to us (Rom. 3:20-22; 2 Tim. 4:8).

To sum up. By putting your faith in Jesus, and persisting in that faith come what may, you can obtain assurance of favourable judgment by Jesus – and the gift of eternal life.


To those who ask: “But how do I know that anything that Jesus said is true? Especially what he said about his being God, and the possibility of eternal life with Him?”

Well, perhaps the best historical evidence for Jesus’ divinity is the Resurrection – which Jesus predicted. Those who saw, touched and spoke with the risen Jesus created the Christian church as a direct result. By the way, the New Testament teaches that Jesus’s bodily resurrection is the “model” for that of all believers.

Jesus suggested another way to test his claims: “Anyone who chooses to do the will of God will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own.” (John 7:17) Billions of believers for over two thousand years have made that choice and come to understand the wisdom of Jesus’ words. Try it yourself!

To those who ask: “How can I attain the gift of eternal life?”

There is a simple binary choice to be made. Jesus Himself could not have been plainer: “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them.” (John 3:36) To “believe in” Jesus is to trust him in all things.


To those who ask: “So, all I’ve got to do is say I believe in Jesus, and I’ll get to Heaven?”

No. Jesus warned about this: “Not everyone who says to me, 'LORD, LORD,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven”. (Matthew 7:21) In other words, once you have made a decision to believe in Jesus – which means to trust him – you must actually do that, come what may. The best evidence that you really trust Jesus is by obeying his commands for holy living. You won’t do it perfectly, but you must always be trying.

Revelation 21:6-8 He said to me: ‘It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children. But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars – they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulphur. This is the second death.’

NINE BIBLE PASSAGES CONCERNING JUDGEMENT AND HEAVEN


Matthew 25: 31-33 When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.


Luke 12:4-5 I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after your body has been killed, has authority to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him.


2 Corinthians 5:10-11 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad. Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade others.


Colossians 3:19-21 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behaviour. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation— if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel.


Revelation 21:6-8 He said to me: ‘It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children. But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars – they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulphur. This is the second death.’


John 3:16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.


1 Corinthians 2:9-10 However, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived – the things God has prepared for those who love him” – these are the things that God has revealed to us by his Spirit

Hebrews 13:14 For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come.


Revelation 21:4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.

GROUP OR PERSONAL REFLECTIONS

  1. Do you live each day with the prospect of God’s judgment in mind, especially when you find yourself judging others?


  1. What do you fear the most? Death? Illness? Bankruptcy? Singleness? Divorce? Loss of prestige? Have you taken to heart Jesus’ warnings (see, e.g., Luke 12:4-5, Luke 13:23-25) that our preeminent fear should be of Him, in His capacity as our righteous judge?


  1. Evangelical Christians rightly reject any suggestion that salvation can be earned by good works. Yet the New Testament makes it plain that Jesus’s judgment will be “according to works” (cf. Matthew 25:31-45, Romans 2:6, 1 Corinthians 3:10-15, 2 Corinthians 5:10-11, Hebrews 12:14; see also Proverbs 24:12, Jeremiah 32:19). What is your attitude toward the prospect of judgment by Jesus according to works? How do your works to date – in particular, your efforts at evangelism and discipleship – stack up?


  1. What is your understanding of the fate of the unsaved?


  1. What things are you looking forward to the most about Heaven?


  1. Are you heeding Jesus’ warning in Matthew 6:19-21? “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

PRAYER ABOUT DIVINE JUDGEMENT AND HEAVEN

Heavenly Father,

Thank you for the inestimable gift of eternal life, which You have granted to all who place their faith in Jesus and who persist in that faith to the end. Thank you for preparing a place for me and many others in your house, Heaven, where I will go when I die. For as long as I remain living on earth, please help me never to lose sight of the promise of Heaven, where I will see You face to face and be reunited with loved ones who have preceded me there. Likewise, let me never lose sight of your ultimate promise of eternal life in a resurrected state in the New Jerusalem.

Father, I bring before you the many who are lost who do not share this sure hope of eternal joy and peace. I am particularly concerned about those that I love dearly who have not submitted to you. I dearly want them to be saved.

Please help me as I speak with others about the vital issue of God’s judgment to family, friends, colleagues, acquaintances and even total strangers. Please grant me courage and winsomeness as I seek to explain the key points:

  • That everyone, after they die, must face Your awesome and final judgment,

  • That You have appointed Jesus for that task,

  • That Jesus will judge in love, grace and truth, separating the sheep from the goats,

  • That it is impossible to earn favourable judgment from Jesus by good works, because all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

  • That salvation depends upon being in right relation with Jesus, who died for our sins once for all,

  • That those who know Jesus will see eternal life, but those who reject Jesus will not see eternal life.

Please help me also to answer any and all objections that may be raised - clearly, graciously and above all biblically, not proffering false hope but emphasising the very real and wonderful hope that exists for anyone who puts their faith in Jesus and continues in that faith to the end.

In the name of Jesus, our righteous judge and loving saviour,

Amen

DIGGING DEEPER

A Brief Introduction to Annihilationism

This is an easily understandable summary, by a contemporary evangelical Christian, of his reasons for believing in annihilationism. He refers to most of the key passages of Scripture, and directs readers to further resources. The early quote from John Stott is a gem! The comments thread is also well worth reading.

Author: Elijah ThompsonPublisher: theologymix.comEstimated read time: 12:05Date accessed: 18/02/2021

J.I. Packer on Why Annihilationism is Wrong

A pithy summary, by a contemporary traditionalist, of J.I Packer’s classic defence of Hell as eternal conscious torment.

Author: Gavin OrtlundPublisher: thegospelcoalition.orgEstimated read time: 8:40Date accessed: 18/02/2021

Shadows and Streams

This is an extract (in audio and written form) from John Piper’s book The Pleasures of God. The emphasis is on the aspect of eternal life that will be the most wonderful and incredible of all: to see God Himself.

Estimated read time (devotional): 2:00Speaker/author: John PiperPublisher: DesiringGod.orgDuration (podcast): 3:23Date accessed: 18/02/2021

9 Facts About Heaven That Will Surprise You

Another resource created by American pastor and author Randy Alcorn, this one in short, easily digestible written form.

Author: Randy Alcorn
Publisher: Lifeway.com
Estimated read time: 6:00
Date accessed: 18/02/2021

This page was posted on: 19/02/2021