Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Verses 28-30 give three vital truths regarding verdicts of Judgment Day.
John 5:28 (Holman) ADo not be amazed at this, because a time is coming when all who are in the graves will hear His voice . . .@
First, the verdicts are inevitable. The overwhelming witness of Scripture is, all people, believers and unbelievers, will face a final judgment. All the world is moving to a climax. Everyone who has lived, is living, or will live, has an appointment to keep. They are all heading to be tested on Athe@ day, the day when Adam and Eve will see all their family together for the first and last time.
Our bodies, which were not formed to die, shall be retrieved from death in order to let them recover their original immortality. Jesus= voice will call our dead bodies from the grave, whatever it be. Where corpses are burned, fire is the grave; where drowned, water is the grave; where exposed, vultures are the grave. The burial medium doesn=t matter. God=s voice will resurrect every human body.
For unbelievers, death will not provide an escape from punishment. Any who reject the appeals of mercy today will respond to the subpoena of judgment tomorrow. All who die without a personal relationship with Jesus will remain forever in spiritual death, but none will stay forever in physical death.
There must be a reckoning. People who eat at a restaurant are not surprised when they receive a bill. If we acted shocked at being billed for a meal, people would consider us crazy. Yet this is exactly the attitude most people show spiritually. They eat, drink, and sin, taking no thought about a coming reckoning.
Judgment is coming anyway. AThe@ hour par excellence is coming, the hour that puts all other hours in the shade. We will all be there. Are we ready?
John 5:29 A. . . and come out B those who have done good things, to the resurrection of life, but those who have done wicked things, to the resurrection of judgment.@
Second, the verdicts of Judgment Day are irreversible. Finality is the key-note. Once a verdict is rendered by God, it can never be changed.
In this world a defendant can postpone punishment from a law court for years. At God=s judgment seat, there will be no delays, no appeals, no reversals.
Some erroneously think verse 29 teaches our everlasting destiny will be determined on Judgment Day based on our works. It is correct to say the verdicts of Judgment Day are based on works, but wrong to say its verdicts determine our everlasting destiny. That decision is made the moment we die, based on whether or not we received Jesus
The most important verdict ever pronounced about us will be the one rendered at the instant of death. For Christ-followers, death immediately ushers us into Heaven. To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord (II Corinthians 5:8). For unbelievers, death begins Hell. Jesus told of the rich man who died and was immediately being tormented in flames (Luke 16:23)
We determine in this life our everlasting existence. This world is not Apre@ probation, it is Athe@ probation. Purgatory, reincarnation, and annihilation are manmade wishful thoughts.
At death our everlasting condition is decided, never to be altered. By the time we arrive at Judgment, believers and unbelievers will already know their everlasting state. Within the two groups, other vital determinations will be decided on Judgment Day.
For the lost, some will receive Aharsher punishment@ (Mark 12:40). Hell is not a one-size-fits-all place. Some unbelievers will receive less punishment than others, but even the least punished will find Judgment Day dreadful.
For Christ-followers, there will be two basic divisions of judgment. Some will be saved, Alike an escape through fire@ (I Corinthians 3:15), having to be smuggled into Heaven. How humiliating. The very thought exasperates. It is a crime that many who receive grace through Jesus= death still live unworthily.
How much better to be in the other division, to hear Jesus say Awell done@ and receive an entry Arichly supplied to you@ (2 Peter 1:11). We need to live in such a way Athat we may have confidence in the day of judgment@ (I John 4:17).
John 5:30 AI can do nothing on My own, I judge only as I hear, and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.@
Third, verdicts of Judgment Day are impartial. It is difficult for any mortal to judge another person fairly. Many motives can influence a Judge=s decision. Some judgment seats are green, bribed with money; others are black, reflecting a wicked judge=s heart; others are red, soaked with innocent blood.
Sometimes justice is aborted in our judicial system because the defendant knows the right person or possesses enough money to exert influence. God, though, treats all people impartially. Since Jesus can do nothing apart from the will of the Father, we are assured He will display in Judgment Day two ingredients essential for impartial verdicts: love and total knowledge.
First, since God is love, love will be on the throne. The God-man will judge us. As our High Priest, one of us, He knows us Afrom the inside@ and will be fair to all. Hindrances to impartiality begin with some kind of selfish feeling by the Judge. If a Judge seeks his own selfish will and purposes, his judgment is skewed. Jesus is a Judge unselfish and thus right-minded toward all.
Jesus equally loves each person He will judge. Partiality, jealousy, prejudice, and envy are eliminated. By yielding totally to Father=s will, Jesus seeks absolute fairness in justice, for God is love.
Second, since God is omniscient, total knowledge will be on the throne. Judgment can be perfect only when it can take into account all motives and circumstances. Only God knows all our thoughts, trials, troubles, past, and temptations. He who sees all will bring all pertinent data to the judicial inquiry.
Every shred of evidence will be available, nothing omitted. On earth, confessions of rapists and murderers often are not allowed in court. Due to legal technicalities, valuable evidence sometimes is not disclosed to a jury.
Nothing will be hidden at God=s judgment bar. AI tell you that on the day of judgment people will have to account for every careless word they speak@ (Matthew 12:36). AThere is nothing covered that won=t be uncovered, neither hidden, that won=t be known@ (Luke 12:2). No evidence will be withheld Aon the day when God judges what people have kept secret@ (Romans 2:16). All thoughts, words, and deeds will be accounted for.
On Judgment Day, our character will be resurrected with us. Things we hid will be brought out in the open. All through life we write our own destiny, every deed becoming part of our final story.
What will result from the inevitable, irreversible, impartial verdicts of Judgment Day? First, for the first time we Christians will fully realize how badly we needed Christ, how helpless and hopeless we would have been without Him.
Second, Christ-followers will be vindicated. Unbelievers will see we were right in following Jesus. Christians have been maligned, ridiculed, and ostracized, but on Judgment Day shall be publicly acknowledged as God=s chosen ones.
Third, Jesus will be exalted. Lost people will see how terrible was their sin of rejecting Jesus. The saved will see how much their faith in Jesus pleased God. All will fully understand why the one deed that gave everlasting life was accepting Jesus, and why the one deed that brought damnation was rejecting Jesus.
Fourth, the human race shall be everlastingly divided. We will never again all be together in the same place at the same time. The saved will go to God, the unsaved from God. A huge gulf separates the two destinations (Luke 16:26). People will go to their appointed side of the gulf. Which verdict is ours? We must settle this issue before we die. Flee to Jesus for refuge.