We have worlds of things in life to be thankful for, especially if we are followers of Jesus Christ. He truly blesses us in more ways all the time than we can even imagine. Often in the worst of situations from our point of view, God is still blessing us in ways that we can’t see now but will later. I often thank God that I’m not the one who has the job of judging everyone on whether or not their life is what it ought to be and even more I’m thankful that it isn’t other people who will be my judge in the last day.
In 2 Timothy 4:6-8 Paul is writing the last letter he would write before his execution at the hands of Nero. It is a plea for Timothy come to him as quickly as possible. “For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time of my departure is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge will award to me on that day – and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” What if Paul had to face the judgment of so many of the people who were alive during that time? It is certainly the case that most of the Jewish religious leaders were ready to see him put to death and felt like hell would be too good for him. They were willing to lie or whatever to try to get him killed. Many of those Jews who became Christians but who believed that Gentiles who became Christians must also be circumcised and keep the law if they are to be real Christians wouldn’t have felt that Paul had a place in heaven. Even among the followers of Christ, Paul talked in Philippians one about how some were preaching Christ out of jealousy for him hoping to add to his problems. It must have blown their minds when he said he was glad, whatever their reasons that Christ was preached and that some were believing the gospel. Few people in all time, if any have done as much to spread the gospel to the world and suffered more for their faith in Jesus than Paul, yet many would have condemned him if they had been the judge.
No wonder Paul was thrilled that he would appear before the Lord, the righteous judge along with all who were anticipating with joy his appearing. I think that was also the reason that in Romans 14 as Paul talked about areas where faithful brethren in Christ disagreed on matters that they not judge one another but realize that we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ. Brethren believed very different things about eating certain foods that had been unclean under the law. They believed differently about observing particular days as holy. They disagreed on whether or not a Christian should drink wine. But in all these matters he laid down three strong teachings that need to be remembered. First, don’t judge your brother or sister in the Lord. They are God’s servants not yours so leave the judging to him. Second, be careful in your actions and in what you believe is right not to put a stumbling block before those who disagree so that some who are weak might be lost to Christ. Third, live by your conscience. If you think a think is wrong, even though others don’t and even though the Bible says nothing about it being wrong, don’t violate your conscience. Instead with our conscience we need to be constantly retraining it by what God says in his word. Paul himself demonstrated how utterly wrong our conscience could be when he said in Acts 23:1 that he had lived in all good conscience until that very day. He had blasphemed Christ, persecuted Christians, sanctioned the death of Stephen and was worst of sinners, yet he did it all with a clean conscience. Sometimes we feel guilty about things that aren’t wrong at all. It is just something that doesn’t feel right to us because of what we have always thought.
Praise God that Jesus is the righteous judge. He has walked in our shoes, suffered the pains we’ve been through, known the temptations we have had, been rejected in ways far worse than we have ever imagined and yet he was made like us in every way so that he might be the merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God. At the same time, the thought that Jesus is the judge should cause me to step back and realize that if I think I am keeping something hidden from the Lord that I don’t want anyone to know about my heart and life, I am fooling myself. Nothing is hidden from the eyes of him with whom we have to do. No one will be welcomed into heaven because they tricked the judge or got off on a technicality. He is the righteous judge who knows our hearts, our minds and our actions. His memory never fails. The only way anything can be hidden from the Lord’s view is through it being forgiven and cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ. Knowing Jesus is the righteous judge is encouraging, eye-opening and real. It is easy to fool ourselves, our friends and even the church, but no one has ever fooled Jesus the righteous judge. But when I turn to him for forgiveness he is faithful and just to forgive all of our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Judgement Day is real. It is coming. It is a blessing to look forward to if I am being faithful to Jesus and living the life he calls me to live. It is scary if I’m living a sinful life trying to ignore the Lord. It will be a total surprise for many who have denied His existence and thought this life is all there is. But what a glorious day for those who have lived for him to be welcomed home with him in glory forevermore.