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The Judgment Seat of Christ

“Harvest to me my godly ones; ones who cut a covenant with me by sacrifice.”

(Psalm 50:5)

One thing that many Christians misunderstand is the idea of judgment. And here, I am not speaking about the judgment of the ungodly under God’s wrath, but even of the believer. Paul reminds us in 2 Corinthians 5:10 that we all must appear before the judgment seat of Christ. Does that imply that there are works expected as part of our salvation? No, absolutely not. When works are included in salvation then grace is no longer grace (Romans 11:6). Christ has paid the penalty of our sins, bought we who are God’s elect as his own and there is nothing that we can do to add or detract from that reality — we are clothed in Christ’s righteous, not some kind of blended material.

At the same time, we are accountable as to how we live and the words, “well done my good and faithful servant…enter into my joy” are words that every believer should desire to hear more so than any other words that our Savior could offer. And Scripture sets that idea before us when it speaks of the judgment seat of Christ. And so, in the context of this passage, with God calling the earth and heavens as witness as God testifies against them. Notice how, that when this verse is taken out of its context, it sounds like a wonderful thing; in its context, it is very much a fearful thing.

The idea of harvest is found throughout the scriptures and here as well. The Hebrew word which begins this verse speaks of how the farmer would go and harvest the sheaves of grain from the field and gather them into the barn. This is a task that we are called to enter into (Matthew 9:37-38). At the same time, it is a task that God also commissions his angels to work in the end times (Matthew 13:49-50).

What does the psalmist mean, then, by those who are “godly” or those who are “faithful”? The Hebrew word that is employed here is חָסִיד (hasiyd), which is derived from the Hebrew word חֶסֶד (hesed). The root word refers to keeping faithful to the covenant even when those with whom we are in covenant are unfaithful. It is often translated as mercy, grace, lovingkindness, or loyalty. And while we humans are the ones who fall short of the covenant, the 

חֶסֶד (hesed) of God is something that we are called to love (Micah 6:8). So, how are the godly defined? It is those who love and cherish the mercy of God in such a way that they are inclined to show mercy to others. 

Yet, חֶסֶד (hesed), in its Hebrew context, always has to do with the Covenant of God toward his people. God does not just bubble away and show mercy indiscriminately, but he does so in the context of his covenant — a covenant that is sealed with blood. In the Old Testament, this was the blood of animals that anticipated the blood of Christ to come. In the New Testament, the Covenant of Grace was fully ratified by the sacrificial blood of Christ being poured out — a once and for all time sacrifice (Hebrews 10:10) that is effectually applied to the elect of God.

So, who are the godly being harvested and brought before God’s judgment seat? It is believers. And that should cause all of us to take a pause and evaluate or re-evaluate or own lives. Is the way we are living the basis of the way we would like to see ourselves judged? Sobering, isn’t it?

Warning of Coming Judgment

“And Enoch, the seventh son from Adam, prophesied these things saying, “Behold, the Lord comes with his holy myriads with him to bring judgment against all, to convict all human life of all their works of impiety, which they did impiously, and concerning all the cruelty that impious sinners spoke against Him.  These are grumblers and complainers, walking according to their cravings and their mouths speaking boasts, flattering to gain advantage.”

(Jude 14-16)

 

This is the second time that Jude quotes from non-canonical literature.  Here he quotes from the Apocalypse of Enoch, pointing to the second coming of Christ with his angels to judge the wicked (if you want a picture of those myriads of angels take a peek at Revelation 5:11).  Do you notice a theme in this section?  Impious, impious, impious…   Sin is impious and sin brings death.  It is only by being born again in Jesus Christ that we can be saved from the wrath that is to come.  Woe, Woe, Woe.  Revelation also contains three woes (Revelation 8:13).  Three is a number of completion or fullness.  Here we find the fullness of the woes of sinful man.  These men have made full and complete their ungodliness and impiety and their judgment to come will be equally full and complete.

Make careful note of verse 15.  When Christ comes again, he will execute judgment against all mankind, not just the evil ones.  The Apostle John tells us in Revelation 20 that God will judge all mankind according to their works, and all whose names are not written on the Lamb’s Book of Life will be cast into the lake of fire prepared for the devil and his minions.  No one can stand upon his own works, it simply cannot be done because of indwelling sin.  Only Jesus Christ has earned salvation by his works and he alone offers a way to paradise, being clothed in his righteousness.  That comes through faith in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior.  There is no other way to avoid the punishment that we deserve.

The elect, those whose names are written on the Lamb’s book of life and were written there from before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4), are the ones who will escape judgment, but all else will face eternal damnation.  These, Jude reminds us again, are grumblers and complainers who chase after their own cravings.  The word that we translate as “cravings” is the Greek word e˙piqumi÷a (epithumia), which refers to cravings or lusts, more times than not, for things that are forbidden.  Also Jude points to judgment for the flatterers.  This is the word qauma¿zw (thaumazo) in Greek, which literally means “to marvel” or “to be amazed.”  This is not subtle flattery, but loud, boisterous flattery designed to inflate the ego of the listeners.

This is not to categorically state that all that are guilty of grumbling or flatterers are going to Hell, what it reflects is the idea that these things should not reflect the heart of the believer.  God forgives us when we stumble and repent of our sins, yet if we remain hardened and unrepentant, we will face eternal punishment.

All of Jude’s warnings can begin to weigh on you.  He warns you from the past, the present, and the future.  But there is a reason that we are given warnings—they often keep us from harming ourselves.  When I was in the Boy Scouts, I took Life-Saving Merit Badge.  A great deal of the badge dealt with water rescues.  But one of the things that the instructor impressed upon us was the value of preventive measures.  Those measures begin with clearly posted warning signs.  The letter of Jude is one of those signs.

Before we shift gears into Jude’s exhortation to the faithful of the church, I want to drive home the need to beware.  There are spiritual predators who seek to fill your pulpits and they will seek to guide you down a false path.  Watch closely through the eyes of scripture and prayer, not being impressed by flash or new ideas but holding true to the faith that was taught by the Apostles and handed down through the ages.