“For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard (Matthew 20:1).”
Often we will hear verses from the pulpit such as Romans 14:10, Acts 17:31, or 2 Corinthians 5:10 which states; “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.” Death and judgment are certain for all of us (Hebrews 9:27). But sometimes faithful Christians are perplexed and troubled by these verses in light of the truth of Romans 8:1 which declares, “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.” They wonder how it is that we will not be condemned and yet we must still face the judgment. This is no conflict in these truths and no fear for those in Christ.
Those who have worked in the corporate world are familiar with annual performance reviews. For many experienced workers this is not a fretful examination. Those who have had the same boss for some period of time or in the same employer they do not fear a sudden termination at review time. In those instances the objectives against which one is measured have been disclosed and documented before the year began so that the employee knows what goals and tasks they are to achieve. An employer has a right to evaluate and review each worker’s performance to ensure that the responsibilities entrusted to them are being managed well.
In regard to the judgement the New Testament provides a few summaries to portray how such reviews may go. In the parable of the talents Jesus tell of a man (employer) who delegates differing measures of talents to his servants according to their abilities (Matthew 25:14-30). As the Lord of them he has a right to review how they utilized the things he entrusted to them. Notice those who were faithful and fruitful in their duties that he commends their work and invites them to enter into the joy of their lord. But to the one who was lazy and did not put forth even the least effort he condemns. He is a patient Master but He requires fruitfulness (Luke 13:6-9, John 15:4-8).
Likewise when Jesus brings all men before Him in judgment there will be a separation of those who will be condemned and those who will be rewarded (Matthew 25:31-46). He has the right as our Creator to evaluate the work of all men. Notice how Jesus portrays the judgment of the righteous; He notes their service to others under His watchful eye. They were unaware that Christ had observed all their service (Colossians 3:22-23). Also observe that in this dramatic depiction of the judgment Jesus does not issue censure or rebuke for the righteous but bids them to come and inherit the kingdom prepared from the foundation of the world.
Why is there no evidence of rebuke or criticism for the righteous in the judgment? Would it not seem reasonable to conclude that this is because all of their sins were washed away (Acts 22:16)? The righteous Judge will not bring up forgiven failings of the past (Isaiah 38:17, Jeremiah 31:34).
Some do fear the judgment and they should fear. For those who do not know God and have not obeyed the gospel what awaits them is awful (1 Thessalonians 1:8-9). For those who walked away from Christ’s sacrifice their fear is warranted as well (Hebrews 10:26-27). But not so for the faithful Christian. While Jesus does have the authority to review and reward our works (Matthew 16:27, Revelation 22:12) He does not intend for His saints to fear standing before Him in judgment because it is He Himself who saved us from the wrath of God (Romans 5:9). He has documented our objectives so that we should be prepared and not dread that day (John 12:48). Judgment? Yes. Condemnation? No!
Next week, our confidence in the Day of Judgment.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them (Ephesians 2:8-10).”