The above statement was made by the Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 5:10. It is followed by words which seem to reflect his Damascus Road experience, “Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men (v11)”. We know that the Lord Jesus Christ is to be the Judge of his serv­ants and those enlightened by the Truth, whether they have accepted it or not. After delivering his greatest moral discourse, given to his disciples on the mount, Jesus makes an arresting statement, “Not everyone that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Matt 7:21). He continues and makes it plain that many will protest against his judgement, saying, “Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?”

To their astonishment he professes, “I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity”. These words are considered some of the most terrible ever recorded in Scripture. He went on to say that it is essential for us to heed his words and obey them, lest the “house” we are building comes crashing down in the coming storm.

“Weeping and Gnashing of Teeth”

There is another phrase found no less than six times in Matthew’s gospel that the Lord uses to describe the ut­ter despair of those who will be rejected – “there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matt 8:12; 13:42,50; 22:13; 24:51; 25:30). It is a dreadful phrase, expressing the remorse, the inconsolable regret, that the judgment is final and there is no way it can be changed. We don’t want to dwell unnecessarily on these feelings, but the Lord makes it clear that “there shall be weeping…”

In Daniel we have their fate described from another perspective. We read: “And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt” (Dan 12:2). What a great contrast is presented here. For one class, everlasting joy; for the other the hor­ror of shame and contempt. It should make us all the more earnest to be in the first class in the short time remaining ere he comes.

How can we Prepare?

There are some matters we have been warned about which are critical to appreciate if our sins are to be forgiven. In the Lord’s Prayer, he teaches us, “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors” (Matt 6:12). The importance of this is underscored at the conclusion of the prayer, where he states: “For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: but if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (v 14,15). So to some extent we can influence how we will be judged. We must not be unforgiving, hard or censorious of others. The same point is made in the parable of the unforgiving creditor: “So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not everyone his brother their trespasses” (Matt 18:35; see also Mark 11:25-26; James 2:1213). It is when we are overly conscious of our ‘virtues’and the ‘weaknesses’ of others that we get the balance out of plumb (Matt 7:1-5). The Apostle Paul elaborated on this teaching about forgiveness and forbearance; “if any man have a quarrel against any; even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye” (Col 3:13).

Judging Ourselves

The Apostle Paul also wrote, “For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged” (1 Cor 11:31). Far better that we should deal with our shortcomings now. We know that some men’s sins will go before them, but others will not be known until the day of judgment (1 Tim 5:24).

Our God Knows all our Thoughts

Perhaps the greatest impetus for us to purify our hearts and minds is to fully realise that God knows all our thoughts! He said to Israel, “I know the things that come into your mind, every one of them” (Ezek 11:5). He is very interested in our minds, how we think and what our values are; in the words of Brother Bob Lloyd; “what we think about when we can think about any­thing we want to think about.” He searches the hearts of men; and that includes us all.

God is not guided by outward appearances (1 Sam 16:7). The “heart” or mind is what God regards and we are plainly told it will be revealed on the day of judg­ment. Consider the following:

“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” (1 Cor 4:5).

“For the word of God is quick (living), and power­ful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Heb 4:12).

Seeing we can hide nothing from the Judge we must now cleanse our minds of all thoughts that are corrupt or sinful. The “pure in heart” will be blessed and “see God” (Matt 5:8).

Our Challenge

The human mind is “deceitful above all things” (Jer 17:9) and many thoughts are continually generated which are often unbidden and unwanted. How are we going to purge our minds from evil? We will never be able to totally purify our thoughts but there are things we can do that will help. This is the objective of the Scriptures with their numerous examples of godly men whose example we strive to follow. As Christ’s disciples we have committed our lives to follow in his footsteps. He always did those things which pleased his Father (John 8:29). He is the one we must learn about because he is our Judge as well as our Lord and therefore we should give careful attention to his words and actions. Learning his words by heart is an excellent practice, as is doing our daily readings, so that our minds can focus on wholesome things in a corrupt, distracting, evil world.

Notice how the Lord quenched temptation by cit­ing Scripture (Matt 4; Luke 4); how he recommended ‘radical surgery’ by removing influences from our life which may cause us to stumble (Matt 5:29-30).

The Apostle Paul makes the same point when he commends “casting down imaginations (mg ‘reason­ings’), and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor 10:5).

By living positive, committed lives in service to Christ and the ecclesia, worldly temptations will be sidelined and overcome. Notice how in Ephesians 4:22-32 Paul makes this point. And when writing to the Philippians he encouraged them: “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true … honest … just … pure … lovely … of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.” (Phil 4:8-9).

So here is some helpful advice for us all to take on board as we strive to grow spiritually so that we might be able to meet our Lord with joy and not with fear.

Conclusion

We know that our Lord’s coming is near. The political movements in the world, particularly the presence of the king of the north in Syria, together with the moral chaos and moral corruption that we see all around us, make it plain that the Judge is standing at the door. In the day of judgment we are counselled to depend on the grace and mercy of God rather than on what we have accomplished. This is why Paul prayed for Onesiphorus in these words: “The Lord grant unto him that he may find mercy of the Lord in that day” (2 Tim 1:18).

In conclusion let us take to heart the encourage­ment offered by the Apostle John when he wrote these thoughts: “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure” (1 John 3:2-3).