“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left.”
Those aren’t Augustine’s words. Or Luther’s. Or Wesley’s. Spurgeon’s or Piper’s.
Those are the words of our Lord Jesus Christ. Words found in our sacred Scriptures.
That means that the doctrine of the Final Judgment is a doctrine we should learn and teach.
But not simply for head knowledge. Rather, we are looking for heart transformation. In this life.
The doctrine of the Final Judgment can do that. In fact, it can influence our lives in four specific ways. Here they are:
1. Satisfies Our Craving for Justice
We live in a world where justice is half-baked at best. Dictators murder millions. Babies are punched to death. And even if these criminals do go to court, it’s hard to fathom what actual justice looks like. We still feel a deep sense of loss over these tragedies.
However, the doctrine of the final judgment gives us a sense that because God is supreme and sovereign and keeps accurate records of all deeds and renders fair judgment, his universe is ultimately just and every crime–no matter it’s atrociousness–will be vindicated and our sense of justice pacified.
2. Enables Us to Forgive Others
I don’t care who you are–you will be wronged to some degree in this life. And it won’t just happen once. But repeatedly. And quite possibly by the same person. And you may be able to brush off those small insults, but at some point you will be wronged to such an intensity that you find it difficult to forgive. Bitterness will build. Hatred will creep in. And revenge crouches–ready to strike.
What the doctrine of the last judgment does is allow you to see that those who hurt you will ultimately be sentenced and punished–and that eternal punishment [hell] should break our hearts for that person so that in the end we follow Jesus’ example who said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
3. Offers an Incentive to Live a Godly Life
On the one hand, a view of final judgement [where our eternal destinies are decided] motivates us to remain faithful, obedient and godly. It leads us to “store up treasures in heaven.” This is the comfort that an awareness of the final judgment brings to believers.
On the other hand, the doctrine provides some moral restraint for non-believers. When we live in a culture that acknowledges a sense of God as creator and Judge, a fear of God pervades–even for the unbeliever. But when that fear of God is absent, we give ourselves up to greater and greater evil. The doctrine of final judgment is thus a warning to unbelievers to flee sin and submit to God.
4. Provides a Great Motive to Evangelize
When we understand that our decisions in this life will determine our eternal destiny, we are eager to echo Ezekiel’s appeal to the house of Israel and tell the lost, “Turn back, turn back from your evil ways; for why will you die, O house of Israel?”
Listen: This is a tough doctrine to articulate [and even personally absorb] because the prevailing culture–inside and outside of the church–is pretty much humanistic: We only care about what occurs in this world.
Yet as Christians, this is where we put our trust in the historical figure Jesus Christ–who lived, died and rose again–and the words that he preached and look for how to apply his sermons so we can live better in this life–AND the next.
With that in mind, what other ways does the doctrine of the Final Judgment influence our lives in the here and now?
Can you think of any?
Did I miss anything?
What would you add?
I look forward to your thoughts.
This post written by Demian Farnworth of Flawed and Fallen,
originally published on April 14th 2010.
Reproduced under the terms of Creative Commons License (USA).