Why are people judged on Judgment Day?

This series on eschatology, or the study of the last things, is continuing the information on Judgment Day.  Let’s 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.  That’s the focus of the next blog.

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