Where there is no vision the people perish, so we need to be reminded of the hope set before us. In this series of articles our minds will be projected forward to the coming of our Lord and the establishment of the Kingdom of God and should inspire us to walk constantly until the Lord returns.

The judgment seat of Christ will be the single most important event of our mortal life: yet, as we shall show, it does not need to be a cause for fear. Contemplating the judgment can help to focus our thoughts in relation to God and shape the direction of our lives today. The opportunity to prepare for that day must be grasped whilst it is in our power to do so, for none of us know when the account of our life may be closed.

Often we do not seriously contemplate the judgment until we are faced with a deep personal crisis, either our own or of a loved one. Naturally in these circumstances we may not be in a mental state to think out rationally all that the Great Day means for us.

When Paul stood in the marble hall before Felix, and reasoned of righteousness, temperance and judgment to come, the governor’s apprehension was visibly evident. Well he might tremble, for he was acutely aware of the implications for himself.

When we reflect on our appearance before the majestic Divine Presence, whose eyes burn with a penetrating wisdom and His countenance with the brightness of the sun, is our immediate reaction a sense of calm assurance born of faith and love—or are we too gripped by a sudden fear?

“For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, of love, and of a sound mind” (2 Tim 1:7).

Judgment a Privilege

 The first truth to recognise is that no man, however righteous, has a right to expect any sort of reward from God. In fact, God’s justice would have been completely satisfied had we all passed into the grave never again to see the light of day. That being conceded, we can see that the judgment is a Divinely conferred privilege to account for ourselves and plead Yahweh’s mercy, from which we would otherwise be excluded.

The prospect of judgment was not intended to induce men to serve God, for obedience must be motivated by love, and not driven by fear. Nor is it God’s method of preventing people from entering the kingdom—this runs contrary to Christ’s own understanding of the situation:

“Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32).

Having said this, it must be recognised that there are conditions which do apply. It is in the very same context that Christ enjoins his disciples:

“Sell that ye have, and give alms; provide yourselves bags which wax not old, a treasure in the heavens that faileth not…For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Luke 12:33-34).

This recalls the Proverb: “The fining pot for silver, and the furnace for gold; so is a man to his praise” (Proverbs 27:21). Rotherham’s translation illuminates the parallel: “…a man is to be tried by what he praiseth”.

The Purpose of Judgment

 “Every knee shall bow…and every tongue shall confess” Paul reveals the purpose of judgment in the words of Isaiah 45:23: “We shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God” (Romans 14:11,12).

The results are twofold: man is humbled— “every knee shall bow…”— and God is justified —“every tongue shall confess”. The word “confess” really means “to agree” (Greek ‘homologeo’, meaning literally, “the same word as”).

Take the word “agree” first. The object of the judgment is that every accountable person will agree with God, whether they live or die, and God’s righteousness will be declared in the outcome. An incident in the ministry of Jonah illustrates the principle.

Following Jonah’s reluctant mission to Nineveh, God asked him, “Doest thou well to be angry?” Jonah defiantly answered, “I do well to be angry, even unto death”. This amounted to a challenge to God to kill him before he would agree with God’s decision. In an outstanding example of Divine wisdom and restraint, Yahweh refused to allow Jonah to die without first agreeing with Him. Skilfully, He brought Jonah to understand and acknowledge that He was right to offer an opportunity of repentance to Nineveh. This proves that no man can ever put God in an impossible position, or presume to differ with Him.

Why did the Apostle Paul take his quotation from Isaiah 45 — a chapter predicting Cyrus’ capture of Babylon? An examination of its fulfilment supplies the illustration Paul had in mind. That night, the writing on the wall revealed the destiny of Belshazzar, King of Babylon: he was numbered, weighed in the balance and found wanting and his kingdom was divided and given to the Medes. At this startling revelation the crown prince of great Babylon was stricken with terror and “his knees smote one against another”. The aged Daniel, meanwhile, stood calm and sober, arrayed in a royal robe. Upon this scene Cyrus, the “anointed” one, flanked by his personal bodyguard “the immortals”, made his unexpected and triumphant entry. At this moment, all ranks and titles were dissolved before the Conqueror.

Such a moment is the judgment. Mighty monarch and captive, wicked and righteous, can but stand in awe and confess that the Most High rules and all His works are just. Then every knee shall bow and every tongue confess… .

This is the same night in which Yahweh says of Cyrus, “I will give thee the treasures of darkness and hidden riches of secret places”, doubtless referring to the “hid treasures” of which Daniel was custodian. Daniel refused to accept the king’s gifts for interpreting the writing on the wall, esteeming the treasure of Babylon as worthless, for his values were different. This anticipates another key New Testament principle of judgment found in 1 Corinthians 4:5: “…judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God”. Here the Diaglott gives “purposes” for “counsels”.

The judgment is sometimes thought of as a simple exercise in arithmetic in which “good works” in the credit column are counted up against “evil works” in the debit column. This is a crude over-simplification which reflects as much on the justice of God as it does on the intelligence of His children. The truth is expressed by Paul in the above quotation. It is the “hidden purposes” or motives that God seeks to discover at the judgment. These are revealed in the account of our actions in the book of life. Motives rather than actions alone will be the subject of scrutiny then. When “the Lord comes” those who, like Daniel, are found “confessing” him before men, he will confess before the angels of God: “Also I say unto you, Whosoever shall confess me before men, him shall the Son of man also confess before the angels of God” (Luke 12:8). Christ shows in Matthew 25 that the righteous will not be conscious of right action because it is spontaneous: “When saw we thee an hungered or athirst, or naked or in prison?” they ask. Their works are not calculated acts of goodness, but the spontaneous result of a right attitude toward God. Right action begins with right attitude. Such a person is not conscious of right action any more than the wicked are of wrong. It is our spontaneous responses that God analyses.

These will be God’s treasure in the day when He “makes up His jewels”. “Then they that feared Yahweh spake often one to another: and Yahweh hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before Him…And they shall be mine, saith Yahweh of hosts, in that day when I make up my special treasure; and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him” (Mal 3:16,17).

When we come before the penetrating gaze of the Judge of all the earth, we will stand stripped of all pretensions and affectations. We will be what we really are underneath. We may deceive our fellows, but there will be no deceiving the Ancient of Days. All the accoutrements, the mannerisms, the possessions, the trappings of our “image”, will fall away under that Divine scrutiny, leaving us in our true and natural state. Then what we really are, what we really treasure, what we really praise, will be all too evident.

“Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in their Heavenly Father’s realm.”