Jesus and the future (Part 10)

After Jesus returns to earth and the dead are resurrected, judgment will commence. Isaiah 24:21 says, “In that day the LORD will punish the powers in the heavens above and the kings on the earth below.” In other words, both the natural and supernatural realms will be subject to judgment, whether the inhabitants are demonic or human.

Judgment Day is a day when God decides who is worthy to be in His presence. Joel 3:14-16 says, “Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision! For the day of the LORD is near in the valley of decision. The sun and moon will be darkened, and the stars no longer shine. The LORD will roar from Zion and thunder from Jerusalem; the earth and the sky will tremble. But the LORD will be a refuge for his people, a stronghold for the people of Israel.”

God’s holy and perfect character cannot abide sin in His eternal presence, but He provides a “refuge” for His people: Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. Therefore, God’s Judgment Day decision is based on whether a person knew His Son as Savior or not. In John 3:16-18 Jesus said, “‘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. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.’”

Therefore there are simply two groups of humans on the Last Day, but it is not the good and the bad. No one is good because we are all sinful, as Romans 3:10-12 clearly points out: “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.” No, the two groups of people on Judgment Day are the saved and unsaved. Jesus portrayed that symbolically in His parable of the sheep and the goats.

Matthew 25:31-33 says, “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. 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.” The goats in the parable symbolize non-Christians, and the sheep symbolize Christians. The sheep will be separated from the goats because they are part the Good Shepherd’s flock. Jesus said in John 10:14-15, “‘I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me…and I lay down my life for the sheep.’”

Read what happens next to the sheep in the parable of the sheep and the goats (Matthew 25:31-40). Judgment Day continues with rewards for believers on account of the works they did by the Holy Spirit’s power. Paul doesn’t detail what the reward is in 1 Corinthians 3:11-15; he simple states that there are degrees of glory.

For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his 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 man’s work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.

Judgment Day tests the quality of each Christian’s work—in other words, what did you do with your life? Were you building a legacy with worthless things, or with the will of God? Just as fire consumes wood, but not stone, so also Judgment Day will reveal which pursuits were earthly and which were eternal. Was your life’s goal simply accumulating more stuff, or were you living for the advancement of God’s kingdom? Paul says the immature Christians will be saved, but could have received rewards for godly goals. On the other hand, God will hold unbelievers accountable for all their sins on Judgment Day. This is seen in the last part of the parable of the sheep and the goats (Matthew 25:41-46).

Just as there are degrees of glory, or reward for good works by the Holy Spirit, there are degrees of punishment for sinful acts of the flesh. Jesus told another parable in Luke 12:42-47.

“Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom the master puts in charge of his servants to give them their food allowance at the proper time? It will be good for that servant whom the master finds doing so when he returns. I tell you the truth, he will put him in charge of all his possessions. But suppose the servant says to himself, ‘My master is taking a long time in coming,’ and he then begins to beat the menservants and maidservants and to eat and drink and get drunk. The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the unbelievers. That servant who knows his master’s will and does not get ready or does not do what his master wants will be beaten with many blows. But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows.”

Whether it is “many or few blows,” punishment will be meted out for the wrongdoers. The degree of punishment is determined by the nature of the sins. A perfect, just, and all-knowing God will have people answer for what they have done. And the eternal states of heaven and hell will ensue.

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