“These were redeemed from among men, being the firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb. And in their mouth was found no guile: for they are without fault before the throne of God” (Revelation 14:4–5).
My wife and I were having dinner with a family friend, a woman we’ve known a long time. Suddenly, in the middle of our meal, our friend began to voice the kinds of thoughts I’ve been hearing from Christians all over the country. She said to us:
“As you know, my husband is an oculist. He makes and fits glass eyes. We’ve both worked hard all of our lives, and we’ve been able to save some money. We’ve also built up a small retirement fund. But now, just as we’re beginning to think about retirement, we’re seeing things that scare us. Nations all over the world are falling into economic depression. America can’t help but be affected by all of this. And there are all kinds of terrorist acts taking place.
“My husband and I just can’t take hearing any more news like this. Every time we pick up a newspaper, another awful thing is happening somewhere. I know Christians are not supposed to fear, but it’s hard not to be scared when we see all these terrible things going on. I struggle with fear every time I think about our mortgage and car payments. After all, who knows if people are going to buy glass eyes when the economy takes a downturn?
“I have to fight off these fears daily. I feel bad about even having such feelings, because I know I should be trusting the Lord. But, frankly, things are becoming so frightening, it’s hard to keep all of my fears at bay.”
I believe our friend was voicing what multitudes of other sincere Christians are going through: a struggle to keep fear out of their hearts. Like her, most believers who write to our ministry sense that our nation is disintegrating and that some kind of ominous disaster is looming on the horizon. Now, as they hear all these terrible reports of what’s happening in America and around the globe, they struggle just to rest in the promise of God’s keeping power.
Many Christians write to us that they can’t help being gripped by a very human fear. They think they’re not prepared for whatever perilous circumstances an economic collapse would bring. Others say they’re making preparations for their physical survival, because they’re convinced a financial holocaust will usher in social chaos as well.
The fact is, no matter how righteous we may be, no matter how strong our faith is, all of these frightful uncertainties coming to pass cannot help but affect our human emotions. It’s all very scary. And the worst part is, things are going to grow even more ominous in the days ahead.
But for the overcoming Christian, whose sins are covered by the blood of Jesus, there is very good news. And I believe if we keep our eyes focused on this good news, meditating on it night and day, no evil report will ever faze us. Here is the good news God wants us to know: We are all going to stand before the throne of judgment.
Now, if it seems bizarre to you that I’m calling this statement “good news,” I understand. But the truth is, if you’re a Christian, this kind of news shouldn’t sound bizarre at all. Let me explain.
God’s people have good reason to look beyond troubling times.
“It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). As Scripture testifies, our lives here on earth are like grass. One day we’re here, growing and thriving, and the next day we’re fading away with the season. We’re like the vapor of breath we see on a frosty day: here one moment and gone the next. And I’m convinced that just one moment into eternity, we’ll all realize how unimportant and fleeting our present fears and trials have been. We’ll also see just how present the Lord has been with us the whole time, watching over us with his saving and keeping power.
At this point, I can imagine you’re thinking, “How can I be expected to accept this as good news? I’m trying to rid my heart of all my fears about a coming economic depression and all the violence that could follow. Yet you’re reminding me I’m going to die and have to stand before the judgment seat and give an account for my life. What kind of comfort is that? The day we stand before Christ’s throne is going to be a dreadful time. We’re going to have to give an account of our every thought and deed.”
I know many sincere Christians have this same feeling about the judgment. They tremble inside every time they think about that day to come: “How can I ever give an account of all the millions of sinful, un-Christlike thoughts I’ve had? How can I answer for all the thousands upon thousands of idle words I’ve uttered? How can I face all my evil deeds, my sins of omission, my carelessness, my complaining, my apathy, my sins against the light, the sins of my youth? How will I ever be able to look Jesus in the eye on that day? How can I avoid trembling in fear when such a time comes?”
I bring you good news — glorious news — that will help you combat all of the bad news you’ve been hearing. And I believe this news will keep your heart and spirit peaceful, even joyful, through all that’s coming upon the earth. Here is that good news:
If you have repented of any and all sins, and you are trusting Jesus — believing in his cleansing blood, submitting daily to his Lordship — you’re going to stand before his throne without fault or fear. In fact, you’re going to be acknowledged before everyone present — every human, every angel, every demon in hell — as the precious bride of Christ.
I hope to prove to you that you won’t have to face even a single sin against you, nor be exposed for any failure, but that you will be able to stand without blemish.
Not a single sin of yours will be mentioned. Instead, only your good works — including your faith in Jesus Christ — will be expressed to the multitudes gathered.
On the day of judgment, all your evil works will already have been judged and done away with.
I don’t want to get into a discussion of exactly what the judgment will be like — whether there will be one or two judgments, or other such subjects that biblical scholars continue to debate. (Some say there will be one judgment, while others claim there will be two: one for believers and a separate one for all others. The Puritans and other theologians throughout history have taught there will be one general judgment, and that the judgment seat of Christ and the “great white throne judgment” are one and the same.)
Suffice it to say, we all must give an account of our deeds, whether those deeds are good or bad. Scripture tells us, “God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil” (Ecclesiastes 12:14). You may say, “But you just told me the sins of the saints won’t be mentioned. How can this be, if the Bible says every work, good or bad, will be brought to judgment? How can we stand before God without fear if our bad works will be brought into the light?”
We have to keep in mind, there will be two groups at the judgment: sheep and goats. These two groups are going to stand before the Lord separately on that day, one group on the right and one on the left: saints and sinners, sons and slaves, the faithful and the unfaithful, the wise and the foolish, believers and unbelievers. And the bad works referred to, which will be exposed that day, are only those of the wicked.
Scripture says all of their evil deeds will be brought into the light and exposed. Every wicked thought, every secret desire, every lust, every vile imagination, every denial of Christ, every curse word — all will be proclaimed and judged. After these hidden deeds are made public, they will pursue their perpetrators into eternal damnation.
On the other hand, no evil deed of the righteous will be mentioned on that day. Instead, every good thing about their lives will be brought into the light: every holy thought, every charitable act, every sacrificial work. Our Lord is going to make known to all who are present every heart-cry, every morsel of bread given to the hungry, every piece of clothing given to the freezing and naked. He’s going to bring everything good out into the open. And that will be one glorious moment.
The fact is, as we stand before our Lord at the judgment, we will be complete in him. This means that everything we’ve ever done, including any sin we’ve ever committed, will already be covered under his blood and never mentioned again. In short, there is no condemnation to the righteous — none at all. Jesus tells us, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life” (John 5:24). The Greek word for condemnation here is “judgment.” Jesus is saying, in essence, “If you believe in me, you won’t come into judgment. Instead, you will pass from death over into life.”
Indeed, Scripture tells us from cover to cover that once the Lord forgives our sins, he wipes them from memory:
Here is abundant good news for every Christian who’s ever striven or worked to mortify the deeds of his flesh in his own strength. Does this include you? How many times have you tried to bite the bullet and plow ahead toward victory in the Christian life? How many promises have you made to God only to break them? How many times have you tried to please him by fighting off your lusts and habits, only to fail once again?
Here is your good news, reported in the book of Micah: “I, the Lord, will subdue all your iniquities!” God’s Word has given us image after image in these passages of how he wipes our sins from memory: He blots them out. He remembers them no more. He buries them in the sea. He subdues them, meaning he hunts them down and captures them. Isaiah even tells us God takes our trespasses and flips them over his shoulder: “Thou hast cast all my sins behind thy back” (Isaiah 38:17). This means God will never look at our sins or acknowledge them again.
Now let me ask you: if God forgets our sins, why don’t you or I? Why do we always allow the devil to dig up some muck or mire from our past and wave it in our face, when all of our sins are already covered by Christ’s blood? The cleansing, forgiving power of Jesus’ blood is all-encompassing. It covers our entire lives.
All the books are going to be opened and examined on that day.
John writes of the judgment: “I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away: and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works” (Revelation 20:11–12).
Notice that John says there are many books, and there is also a book at the judgment. What are the first books? They’re records of the life of every single sinner who stands before the Judge. You see, every unbelieving person has a book of works and deeds that’s being recorded in heaven. Every page of his book is a record of how he lives. Can you imagine what it’s going to be like for a transgressor when he stands before the Lord on that day? Every thought, word and action in his life will be brought out into the open, exposed for its evil.
But for the righteous, there will be only the book of life. And when that book is opened, we won’t hear one word, one account, one record of a single sin or failing of any of God’s people. Why? All of their sins are covered under the blood of Jesus. The only thing that will appear in that book will be our names. In fact, it will contain our new, heavenly names, and God himself is going to reveal to us what our new names are.
How do our names get recorded in the book of life? They are recorded the moment we believe, with all of our being, that Jesus Christ shed his blood for us. It happens as we claim the victory of his cross and determine to seek him with all our heart, mind, soul and strength, submitting to his Lordship in all things.
Moreover, God offers a wonderful promise to all who were guilty of horrible, “scarlet” sins: whose acts were bloodied with the stench of hell…who abused their bodies with alcohol, drugs, perversions, fornications…who blush when they remember their past …who gulp when they think of how close they came to falling headlong into hell. God’s promise to them is that they can stand assured, with great joy, on the day of judgment without a trace of fear. He pledges: “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool” (Isaiah 1:18). Having repented and forsaken their sins, trusting in his forgiving grace, they were reconciled by faith to him.
No matter what your past is like, God no longer sees you as you once were. You’re no longer a junkie in his eyes. You’re not an alcoholic, an adulterer, a prostitute, a tax evader, a corporate crook. Instead, you’ve been transformed into his precious, lovely, spotless bride. And he is awaiting your presence at the jubilant marriage feast, where you’ll be joined to your bridegroom.
Tell me, would a bridegroom anticipating his wedding day suddenly charge his bride with iniquity at the judgment? No groom would do that. You may wonder, “But isn’t Jesus going to judge all wickedness? Isn’t he going to judge sin?” Yes, he is. But the Christ you’re going to meet on that day is the same Christ who has called you, saved you, forgiven you, purchased you with his own blood, cleansed you, branded you on your forehead as his own, and interceded for you all these years.
As you stand before Jesus, you’re going to see him as your husband, your redeemer, your friend, your advocate, your intercessor still. And, in that moment, you’re going to stand complete in him. You’re going to appear without fault, without spot or wrinkle, holy and blameless. “And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses” (Colossians 2:13). “Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy” (Jude 24).
We are Christ’s body: bone of his bone, flesh of his flesh. Do you think he’s going to mutilate his own body before all the hosts of devils and wicked people gathered before God’s throne? No, never. He’s going to love and care for us who comprise his body. He’s not going to suddenly sever a limb on that day. Besides that, Jesus is the cornerstone of the whole church. Do you think he’s going to remove himself from that building and bring the whole place down after he has placed you in it so strategically?
It is impossible.
Finally, I want to offer God’s Word to you to completely dispel any remaining fears about standing before Christ’s judgment seat, so that from now on you can anticipate that day with great joy and thanksgiving.
The Bible gives us three irrefutable reasons why we have no reason to fear, but every reason to rejoice, at the coming day of judgment.
1. Fear is not compatible with all the wonderful relationships the Lord has proclaimed in his love for us. God has defined who he is to us, and that definition is not compatible with fear. Throughout the Scriptures he describes all the facets of his relationship to us: he’s our father, our brother, our friend, our bridegroom, our head, our husband, our advocate, our kinsman-redeemer, our provider, our refuge, our shepherd and much more.
He has established all these glorious relationships with us through the cross. And now he’s urging us to know, “This is who I am to you.” Do you think he’s going to suddenly wipe out all these relationships with his people on the day of his judgment? Never. How can a father reject his offspring in that child’s hour of accountability? Even as the book of life is being opened, he will still be your father, your advocate, your intercessor. Nothing can take away that relationship from you.
2. Fear cannot be present on the day of your restitution and coronation. “He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities… As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:10, 12). Our minds cannot begin to fathom how far the east is from the west. And that is God’s point in this verse: he has removed our sins beyond our capability to ever call them back.
You may wonder why I am calling God’s day of judgment our coronation day. It is because Isaiah says of that day: “As the bridegroom rejoiceth over the bride, so shall thy God rejoice over thee” (Isaiah 62:5). As you stand before your Lord then, you’ll recognize his eyes of love for you. Then, in front of the entire multitude of transgressors, he will reach out to embrace you, his bride. I ask you: how can you fear when your Lord is gazing upon you with love and rejoicing? You’ll still be the apple of his eye.
3. The Lord will do no less himself than what he requires of us here on earth. God doesn’t require anything of us in his commandments that he isn’t willing to do himself. And one of those requirements is to hide, cover and pardon the sins of our brothers and sisters. “Moreover, if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother” (Matthew 18:15).
I believe that if there’s going to be a separate judgment for Christians, as some teach, this is the area of life where it will take place. God is offended when we expose the weaknesses and infirmities of other saints, especially before the eyes of the wicked. And I believe this judgment must be a private, one-on-one, intimate encounter. Jesus is going to say to us very lovingly:
“I cannot allow you to bring this baggage with you. I want to show you what you missed on earth, and how some of your works were done in the flesh without my Spirit. Yes, you’re my precious bride, and there is nothing but glory ahead for you. You’re under my blood covering, without a single spot or wrinkle. But all your works done in the flesh must burn.”
This will be done only to glorify his mercy. We’ll see all past deeds of our flesh burn as witness to his grace. What a glorious time of rejoicing in the mercy shown to us.
His Word already tells us, “The discretion of a man deferreth his anger; and it is his glory to pass over a transgression” (Proverbs 19:11). “It is the glory of God to conceal a thing” (25:2). Now, in a private moment on that day, Jesus is going to show us how he covered and pardoned our sins, when we least deserved it. He’s going to reveal to us how his mercy and grace alone allowed us to pass over from death to life. “All his transgressions that he hath committed, they shall not be mentioned unto him” (Ezekiel 18:22). Our sins are forever blotted out by his blood, never to be mentioned again. And so should our attitudes be toward our brothers and sisters who have offended us.
I have brought you this message to anchor your soul and prepare you for any unseen calamity in the dark days that are coming.
Martin Luther, at the height of all his trials, testified: “Lord, now that you have forgiven me all, do with me as you please.” Luther was convinced that a God who could wipe away all his sins and save his soul could certainly care for his physical body and material needs. In essence, Luther was saying:
“Why should I fear what man can do to me? I serve a God who can cleanse me of my iniquity and bring peace to my soul. It doesn’t matter if everything around me collapses. If my God is able to save and keep my soul for eternity, why wouldn’t he be able to care for my physical body while I’m on this earth? Oh, Lord, now that I’m pardoned, forgiven, and able to stand before you on judgment day with exceeding great joy, do with me as you please.”
Dear saint, rejoice. This present life is not the ultimate reality. Our reality is eternal life in the presence of our blessed Lord. So keep the faith. Things are winding down — but we are going up!