Years ago there was a TV sports announcer named Warner Wolf who coined the popular phrase “Let’s go to the video tape.” In fact, the term became so popular that Mr. Wolf copyrighted it so others couldn’t use it. Interestingly, his book recounting his life was also called, “Let’s go to the video tape.”
It got me to think about the notion that I often hear from Christians that on the Day of Judgment or the Great White Throne Judgment, God will expose all of our sinfulness and we will feel embarrassed and condemned by a litany of our prior failings. A huge cosmic video screen will be set up in a court room scene ala Perry Mason or some other modern day courtroom drama. And when we get to heaven we are going to be asked for an explanation for every sinful deed we committed. If we don’t acknowledge all of our sins, God is going to say, like that sports announcer, “Let’s go to the video tape!”
I think this unbiblical idea has taken root in the Church because we have so many coarse jokes and new age metaphors about heaven, but mostly because of unsound teaching in the Church about the Day of Judgment. Sadly, we no longer understand what the Bible clearly says about the Day of Judgment as it applies to the believer in Christ.
So, no, St. Peter will not be meeting you at the Pearly Gates. No, there will be no entrance exam or questions that God will ask you so that He, because He is deficient in His understanding, can ascertain your fitness for the eternal Kingdom. Entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven is not conditioned on answering a set of theological riddles, like in the movie, Monty Python and the Holy Grail. And, no there will be no rehashing of your past sins for you to feel horrible about before God and man.
Unfortunately, that is not how most people in the Church see the Day of Judgment. How do I know this? Well I have heard it over and over again from Christians fearful of that “horrible day” when Jesus returns. Additionally, several years ago a poll was conducted that found that “[m]ore than four out of every five Americans agree that ‘we all will be called before God at judgment day to answer for our sins!’”[i]
Listen, though the Bible says Christians will give an account of what they have done it will neither be for embarrassment, or for condemnation, nor for punishment, but for our rewards.
So, let’s not go to the videotape, but let’s now go to the Scriptures.
Revelation 20:11 – 12
“Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done.”
I) Definition of Judgment: Condemnation?
“And the dead will be judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done.”
- Though the dictionary definition of judgment is simply rendering an opinion, Webster’s says that the religious meaning of the Day of Judgment is “a calamity held to be sent by God.” So, it seems to me that the word judgment is loaded with a lot of presuppositions because of a modern misunderstanding of the word. In the legal world a judgment is one that is passed down upon the consideration of evidence for or against a defendant. But what we mostly have come to understand is that legal definition which most often refers to condemnation. To pass judgment is to sentence a guilty criminal after examining the damning evidence of wrongdoing.
- But what is the definition of judgment in the Bible? In our verse in Revelation, the term to judge (krino) literally means to separate, to pick out, or to select. In another sense it is to approve, to esteem, or to prefer. This is the other side of judgment. As you can see it has nothing to do necessarily with condemnation, and certainly not condemnation for the believer.
- Sadly, most of our modern understanding of judgment is condemnation. Let me say that again, most of our modern understanding of judgment is condemnation. If you are a believer in Christ, then I have to attempt to reorient your thinking away from that wrong interpretation. Because if we take the Biblical sense of judgment, the only people who are coming under condemning judgment are those outside of Christ; those who have never repented of their sins; those who are eternally lost.
- But those who are in Christ will be separated, approved, or selected by God on the Day of Judgment. Those who have placed their trust in Jesus are to be esteemed and preferred by God, and picked out for a blissful eternity with God forever.
- Listen to what Jesus says in Matthew 25:31-34, “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.’”
- In the light of eternity, this judgment has already taken place. Since the beginning of the world those who are in Christ have already been judged worthy of the Kingdom. Yes, a sentence will be passed on the great Day of Judgment, but, as you are in Christ you have been and will be declared innocent because of the righteousness of Jesus. You will be separated for inclusion, not exclusion; you will be approved for eternal life, not condemned to an eternity in hell.
- So, why does Paul quote the OT saying, “For it is written: ‘As I live, says the LORD, Every knee shall bow to Me, And every tongue shall confess to God.’ So then each of us shall give account of himself to God” (Romans 14:10-12). This verse needs to be put into the context of what Paul is talking about in this chapter, namely that we should not judge one another’s sinfulness, and that God alone will pronounce the final judgment on the Day of the Lord.
II) You Are No Longer Under Condemnation
- Furthermore, if we allow Scripture to interpret Scripture, we will see that overwhelmingly the Bible speaks of the believer’s righteousness in Christ, which as we believe, takes away any fear of the coming Day of Judgment.
- The Apostle Paul said clearly, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom 8:1).
- If there is no longer any condemnation how can we expect to have a videotape or a replay or even our own accounting of our prior sinfulness?
- Certainly, the cosmic video tape is a condemnation. So it cannot be true.
- As we are in Christ we have nothing to fear about the judgment.
- Listen to this from the Apostle John, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment” (I John 4:18).
- If we are saved by the abundant mercy of God, and not by a balancing act of our good works against our sinfulness, then we are truly set free from the fear of the Day of Judgment. If it is by grace you have been saved, not because of what you did, but because of what Christ did, then what can separate you from the love that is in Christ Jesus? The answer is nothing!
III) Celebrate The Fact Christ Has Set You Free
- Now, you might be saying, I know what the Apostles said about this, but I’m a Red Letter Christian and I look first at what Jesus said in the Gospels. And, as I see it, Jesus spoke a lot about the Day of Judgment.
- Jesus did talk about the Day of Judgment, but almost always as a warning against those who would not put their faith in Him, not as a tool to scare believers into fearing God.
- One of the believer’s favorite verses is John 3:16 where Jesus said that “God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, Jesus Christ, so that anyone who put their faith in Him, would not perish, but have eternal life.” It is the Gospel in a nutshell. It is the good news of salvation in Christ.
- But listen to what Jesus says immediately afterwards, “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son” (John 3:17-18).
- Whoever believes in Jesus is not condemned. Hallelujah!
- Again, Jesus said, “You did not choose me, but I chose you.” And earlier Jesus said “All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.”
- You are eternally secure in Christ. Once you have received Christ into your heart, you are saved forever from any judgment.
- Jesus is the only one who can set us free from condemnation.
- He said to those who were persisting in their unbelief, looking to their pedigree as the way to God: “If the Son sets you free, then you are free indeed” (John 8:36). Only through Jesus can we be safe and secure from that impending Day.
IV) Your Forgiveness Is Complete In Jesus
- Christ paid it all on the cross. Your forgiveness is complete in Christ.
- The Bible says that “Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God” (1 Peter 3:18). There will be no need to have your sins atoned for again once you are in Christ.
- And again, the writer to the Hebrews repeats the promise found in the only OT text that speaks clearly of the new covenant: “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more” (Heb. 8:12). God has eternally set aside your guilt, and no longer holds your sins against you because of what Jesus did for you.
- The Psalmist also said, “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:11-12).
- When we confess our sins during our corporate confession, and I pronounce the truth of your forgiveness; I use the Scripture from 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” God has purified us from allunrighteousness in Christ! Amen!
- We do not have to repent of the sins which we have already repented of. (But if we continually repent for sins already confessed, we will have to repent of our lack of belief that God has not already forgiven us our sins.)
- At the judgment seat of Christ, we do not have to repent of the sins that He said He paid for; that would be ridiculous!
- So, let’s not go to the videotape of our past sins; let’s put them behind us!
- Let’s bask in the glory in God who has forgiven you; let’s abide in the righteousness of Jesus;
- Don’t go back to thinking you have to work your way into God’s grace;
- He has given it to you freely; you have received it freely; it is your eternal possession and inheritance.
- On the day of the Great White Throne Judgment, which sounds so awful, and it will be awful for those who are not in Christ Jesus, but for us who are in Christ it will be a glorious and victorious day where we will hear Jesus the King say, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world”
- When was your inheritance prepared for you? At the creation of the world.
Listen, at the final judgment, if you are in Christ, you will be judged “not guilty.” You will not have to explain your sinfulness to Christ; He already knows all about it and took care of it on the Cross. If you are in Christ, on the final day, you will not be judged in any way but victoriously, and be welcomed into the Kingdom of Heaven.
But let me tell you, if you have not placed your trust in Jesus, then the Day of Judgment will be the day of condemnation for you. Your sins will be played out for you, and you will understand clearly why you are going to hell. And God makes no mistakes.
Call To Place Faith In Christ Alone For Salvation
© Paul Dordal, 2012
[i] The Times Mirror Company; National and International Religion Report, quoted in Signs of the Times, August, 1993, p. 6.”