180725Readers' Questions

Will God judge his elect people?

Paul seems to think so. He says, “We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil” (2Co 5:10).

The book of Revelation depicts judgment as having two phases.

First, the dead are judged by what is written in the books, according to what they had done (Rev 20:12). Evidently, these books contain a record of our works, both good and bad.

Second, if anyone’s name is not found written in the book of life, he is thrown into the lake of fire (Rev 20:15). This book is distinct from the others. It holds a list of names rather than works.

In phase one of judgment, Christ evaluates what everyone has done. In phase two, he determines who belongs to him, though not on the basis of works. Those whose names are in the book of life, those for whom the Lamb … was slain, were written before the foundation of the world (Rev 13:8). Never mind their works. God’s choice followed by Jesus’s atonement determine who belongs in this special book.

The following passage teaches the same concept:

According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw—each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire. (1 Corinthians 3:10-15)

Assuming our foundation is, in fact, Jesus Christ, our duty as Christians is to build on top of it (1Co 3:11). But some of us will build with better materials than others. Anyone who has read the story of the three little pigs knows precious stones are superior to hay and straw (1Co 3:12). Eventually, the Lord will set fire to what we’ve built to determine its worth (1Co 3:13).

Notice, though, even if our lifetime of work gets destroyed by the fire because we used shoddy materials, we will suffer loss but still be saved (1Co 3:15).

In other words, the elect of God will be saved, yet even they will be judged by their works. The inevitable question is, why? Better yet, what kind of rewards or repercussions could there be if we’re at home with the Lord for all eternity? (2Co 5:8).

Your guess is as good as mine. All we can do is speculate. Perhaps our works will determine our positions on the new earth (Rev 21:1). Maybe some of us will tend gardens while others scrub toilets in the new Jerusalem (Rev 21:2). You won’t hear me complain if God assigns me to janitorial duty. I won’t be too proud for the most menial task nor will I envy others. My arrogant, ungrateful flesh will be long gone, and I’ll be thoroughly satisfied when I behold God’s face (Ps 17:15).