Section 9: The End Times
Week 3: The Final Judgment
Day 3: The Judgment of Believers
When we think of the final judgment, the dominant theme for most of us is the judgment of unbelievers. But believers will be judged as well.
If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living. You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister? Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. It is written: So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God” (Rom. 14:8-12).
So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. 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” (2 Cor. 5:9-10).
It’s important to recognize the nature of the judgment for believers is much different than it is for unbelievers. The Bible is clear there is no condemnation for those who have put their faith in Christ. We don’t have to worry that God will punish us because we know Jesus took all our punishment on himself.
Why bother judging believers then? If Jesus paid the penalty for our sins, what difference does make? Just as unbelievers receive varying degrees of punishment based on what they have done, believers will receive varying degrees of rewards based on what we’ve done. That seems to be the point of the parable of the Ten Minas where the servants who did more with what they were given were given greater rewards (Luke 19:11-26). That’s also why Jesus told us to lay up treasures for ourselves in heaven (Matt. 6:20).
While there will be greater rewards for some, our ultimate joy won’t come for the rewards we are given, but from God’s presence among us. As Wayne Grudem explains:
Even though there will be degrees of reward in heaven, the joy of each person will be full and complete for eternity. If we ask how this can be when there are different degrees of reward, it simply shows that our perception of happiness is based on the assumption that happiness depends on what we possess or the status or power we have. In actuality, however, our true happiness consists in delighting in God and rejoicing in the status and recognition that he has given us. The foolishness of thinking that only those who have been highly rewarded and given great status will be fully happy in heaven is seen when we realize no matter how great a reward we are given, there will always be those with greater rewards, or who have higher status and authority, including the apostles, the heavenly creatures, and Jesus Christ and God himself. Therefore if highest status were essential for people to be fully happy, no one but God would be fully happy in heaven, which is certainly an incorrect idea.”[i]
Read Luke 19:11-26
Does it make sense that believers would receive greater or lesser rewards based on what they’ve done? What does that say about God’s justice? Does this provide greater motivation for holy living? Do you agree with Grudem that despite the reality of varying degrees of reward our ultimate happiness will consist in delighting in God?
[i] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Doctrine, Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House (1994), 1144-1145.