The Judgment Seat of Christ: The Rude Awakening

“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ,” 2 Corinthians 5:10.

From unsaved pastors and teachers in the church, to the most ardent atheist, all who are found outside of Christ on judgment day are in for a rude awakening.

In this post, I’m looking at this reality.

In my first post on this verse, I looked at the surprising joy believers will have on the day of judgment. This post will focus upon the dreadful reality for those who are not found in Christ. Just the presupposition that so many make in our pluralistic and relativistic culture show us that many will be surprised on judgment day. As the saying goes for so many when it comes to Christianity, “it may work for you but it doesn’t for me.” Their belief is simply that since they are not Christians and reject these truths, these truths do not apply to them. So to make the statement that our Jesus will be their judge, my come as a huge surprise to many, and cause many to accuse us of being politically incorrect. Regardless of their rejection to these truths, the reality is still before us: judgment day is coming and many are in for a rude awakening when it does.

Not that we delight in these truths. It is really quite sad that so many will perish because of unbelief. But the fault lies with them, and not the truth we find in Scripture.

These people will be quite surprised to find that Jesus is sitting on the judgment seat. After His sinless life and because of His complete obedience to the Father, He has been given the right to judge with all authority (Matthew 28:18, John 5:27). This is why Paul says in our passage that ALL will be judged. He is not speaking metaphorically here, but saying that “all”, without exception, will appear before the judgment seat of Christ.

It does not matter how religious a person was, or how devout, how sincere in whatever beliefs they held, how magnanimous they were toward their fellow man, how much the helped our economy, our culture, our country, if they are found outside of Christ, they will be under His condemnation.  They will immediately see that all their pursuits in life were vanity of vanities because they were not done so in the LORD. As He tells us: “apart from ME you can do nothing,” (John 15:5). It is not that many cannot do many things. But those things are not acceptable to the Father for the purposes of acceptance or righteousness. This is why the doctrine of justification by faith alone is so vitally important. We are saved from God’s wrath and eternal damnation through belief in Christ, not good deeds. Yet, many in our culture and many in the church are under the false assumption that they can do enough good works to satisfy God’s wrath.

The severity of judgment will be based on the level of truth that they had and what they did with that truth. This is why in Matthew, Jesus tells those who thought they were doing HIs work, “depart from Me, I never knew you!” (Matthew 7:21-22). It is in this group that we will probably find unredeemed pastors, teachers, and member of the flock who never truly believe in Christ for salvation, but came to the church because it was an acceptable religion. In fact, those who held leadership positions will be held to an even stricter judgment because of their position before the people of God. They will receive the most severe punishments because of their unbelief, which is the reason they are not saved. No matter how many times the words, “Lord, Lord,” it will not matter because those words are not girded in belief.

There will also be those who are not inside the church, but will still fall under His condemnation. I think this is the person we see in Matthew 22:11-13 who is found in the wedding banquet without the proper garments. The reason he lacks the garments is because he is not numbered among God’s elect and chosen people. This person may not have ever heard the gospel, but is still under judgment because of the suppression of the truth that he did have in creation (Romans 1:18-31). This person may have simply been apathetic to religion. Yet, he stands condemned because of his personal wickedness. The judge will have him bound hand and foot and thrown into outer darkness; where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Sadly, this is the typical response that most will have. They will weep because of the eternal nature of their punishment, and gnash their teeth at God. I’m sure there will be those who claim all forms of righteousness on their own part. “But God, I invented the internet, I made people happy because of my jokes, I made people laugh, I was a great athlete, I was a great politician, I was a great…”

All of these will be found wanting because they do not have righteousness that exceeds that of the Pharisees. The only way to obtain that, is through Christ and the multitudes will have rejected Him outright. Even those who have never heard His name would still have not believed. Their hearts were hardened.

I know for many of us, this seems like a hard truth. I’m sure for those of us who believe, we will see our loved ones, neighbors and others we have known in life on the other side of that dreadful aisle in which the sheep and goats are separated (Matthew 25:31-46). Yet, we will not despair because of the trust we have in the Father and His decision in election. We will completely agree with Him and His decision, and rejoice that for some reason, His rich love toward us, we will not weep and gnash for eternity. We will also know that He will be glorified through both groups. And that is the point of all that HE does.