October 20, 2019 The Judgement Seat of Christ Part 10

The Judgment Seat of Christ Part 10

What Happens When an Unfaithful Christian Dies?

 

Our scripture reading this morning is Hebrews 4:1-13. READ. PRAY.

 

This is the final installment of a ten-part series on the Judgment Seat of Christ. This morning I will answer the question: What happens when an unfaithful Christian dies? Most people in a nation with biblical influence, like the U.S., know what happens when a wicked person dies like Adolph Hitler or Joseph Stalin. They go to the lake of fire forever. This is indeed what the Bible teaches. Most also know what happens when a faithful Christian dies like Billy Graham or Ray Comfort. They will enter the kingdom of God. But what happens when an unfaithful Christian dies?

 

In order to answer this question we will need to answer some other questions first. We will answer:

 

  • What is a Christian?
  • What sequence of events occur after death?
  • What is the kingdom of God?

 

  1. What is a Christian? There is a great delusion about in the land. This delusion is a result of a misunderstanding about the nature of faith.

 

[Illus] There were two men who lived next door to one another. (This is an imaginary story.) We will call the one Jim and the other Bob. Jim purchased a playhouse for his children from the hardware store. It came with a set of instructions. Jim fancied himself a do-it-yourself man, so he did look at the instructions but not very carefully. To make matters worse he misunderstood the section of instructions that directed the installment of the door. As a result the door would not close all the way because it was installed wrong. Embarrassingly, he had to call his neighbor, Al Simko, to come and do the job right.

About the same time his other neighbor, Bob, decided to fix the brakes on his car. He had never attempted this before and he made the same mistake that Jim did. He did not read the manual he had very carefully and he misunderstood part of the instructions. His wife took the car out after his “repair” and discovered that the brakes did not work. She perished in an auto accident because of her husband’s neglect.

 

We can misunderstand some things and it will be of little consequence. Some things are important enough that, if we misunderstand them, we may perish. The teachings of Jesus and the apostles are like that. They taught of eternal matters. We must not only pay careful attention to what they said but we must also be careful about what other people think they said. We must allow Scripture to define its own terms and not take some contemporary understanding as our understanding.

 

Many people hear the word “believe” or “faith” and think that it means simply agreeing with some statement or some historical event. In modern vernacular it can mean that, but what did Jesus and the apostles mean when they used those words?

 

In other words, many people think that believing in Jesus just means that one believes that he dies for sins and rose from the dead. If you believe that, then you are saved. But true faith is a confidence in and commitment to God and Jesus Christ. Faith is seen in obedient action, love and continuing good works.[1] Let us see this more clearly.

 

Turn to James 1:19-26. READ. James says that if we only hear the word but don’t live it out we are self-deceived. I tell you, there are multitudes of people who have said some kind of prayer thinking they are right with God but there is little or no change in their life. According to the word of God here they are self-deceived. It is like a person who just doesn’t glance at a mirror, but looks intently. He or she examines their face in a mirror and gets a good picture of it in their mind. Then they walk away and cannot remember what it is they looked like. What is that? That is something abnormal. That is an absolute failure of memory. That is what it is like when a person considers the terms of the gospel and makes some kind of profession of faith but then never lives out what they profess. It is an abnormality. It is an utter failure.

 

Something can become common and still be abnormal. There are parts of Africa where the majority of the population has sickle cell anemia. It is common but still abnormal. So it is with the watered-down Christianity of the 21st century in the West. Tens of thousands have made some kind of profession but there is no fruit. There is no reality to what they claim they believe.

 

Look at verse 25. James tells us the qualities of genuine faith. It is one which looks at the law and perseveres in it. They do not give up. That is what perseverance is. Now they will be tempted to give up at times. They may even fall away for a short time as David did and Peter did, but the Holy Spirit draws them back in tears and repentance. David and Peter both cried because of their own disobedience. It cut them to the quick and they repented. Genuine faith perseveres.

 

Secondly, genuine faith DOES. It is not merely a mental assent to some facts. It reaches out to the suffering and those in difficult and trying times. It helps others. You see, true faith is supernatural. It is a gift from God that changes who we are. It changes us from a selfish person to a caring person.

 

Thirdly, it bridles the tongue. If we do not bridle our tongue (or our fingers) then our faith is worthless. It cannot save. It is merely mental assent.

 

James returns to this theme in 2:14. READ 2:14-17. (Comment.) This is a repeat of his second point. Faith DOES, real faith WORKS.

 

  • Fourthly,saving faith is characterized by a love for the word of God. David said in Psalm 119:47 for I find my delight in your commandments,
which I love.

And verse 48: I will lift up my hands toward your commandments, which I love,

and I will meditate on your statutes.

 

And verse 97: Oh how I love your law!

It is my meditation all the day.

 

Psalm 119 alone shows David’s love for God’s word dozens of times. This is what characterizes living faith.

 

  • When I hear of someone who does not read and meditate on God’s word I doubt that they love God’s word.
  • When you love someone or something your heart is taken up with that person of that thing.
  • If someone does not love God’s word I have to doubt their love for God, because His word expresses Who He is.
  • If we do not love God we are not saved.

 

Lastly, if we have genuine faith we will desire to be with God’s people. And we will actualize that desire. It will not be a desire floating in our heart alone, but we will be with God’s people. We will be offended by God’s people. We will observe hypocrisy among God’s people. We may even be hurt by God’s people. That is because we are all on a journey of sanctification and we all fall short. Some more than others.

 

However, the word teaches that true faith is characterized by having and living with a new family that you do not desert when things go awry.

 

Therefore, to answer the question, What happens to an unfaithful Christian when they die?, we must begin by saying that some will die thinking they were Christians when they were not. They were not born again. When they die they will hear, “I never knew you. Depart from Me you who work iniquity.” Those will be the most terrifying words that anyone will ever hear.

 

If you think that you may be among that number then now is the time to truly commit your life to the Lord Jesus Christ. Commit this day to be His follower, not in word only, but with all that you are. You can trust Jesus to lead you, guide you, and sustain you despite your weakness and your faltering. He will grant divine strength for the journey.

 

  1. What is the sequence of events after death for the disciple of Jesus Christ?

 

  1. Upon death the spirit of man goes to a place called Paradise, more commonly known as heaven. It is the place where God’s chosen people go to await the reunification with their bodies. The absence of the body is not an ideal state. It is not the condition in which God created us before the fall. It is a temporary condition that is necessary because of death. And death is necessary because of sin.
  2. It is made tolerable and even to some extent enjoyable by the presence of Jesus as well as the presence of those we love who likewise belong to Christ. There we shall remain until the Lord Jesus Christ returns to the earth
  3. When the Lord returns to the earth he will judge three classes of people:
  1. He will judge the dead saints, both Old Testament and New Testament. This judgment will be for rewards, both positve and negative.
  2. He will judge the Christians who are alive at his coming. This will be the same judgment as for the dead.
  3. He will judge the living unbelievers. This judgment will be different than the one for the chosen ones of God. After this judgment the unbelievers will be cast into Gehenna, commonly called hell. (The dead unbelievers from all ages since the beginning of the world remain in the grave and will not be judged until the end of the next age.)
  1. There will be a golden age upon the earth that eill last one thousand years or more.
  2. There will be a final rebellion.
  3. Then the new heavens and new earth will be ushered in. A place without sin and death. A time of even greater glory and bliss than the thousand-year age just mentioned.

 

  1. What is the kingdom of God? The kingdom of God is God’s rule, God’s reign being manifested. The Scriptures speak of the kingdom of God as a present reality but also as a future era. In one sense the kingdom began in a mystery form when Christ came the first time. Christ is ruling and reigning in His church right now. But this is not readily apparent.

 

There will come a day when the kingdom comes in its fullness. This is why Jesus taught us to pray “thy kingdom come.” This is why he said, “When you see…” It will be a glorious time when much, but not all, of the curse will be removed. One thing is certain: it will be the best and happiest time the earth has ever known since Adam and Eve were in the garden before the fall.

 

Jesus taught that we should seek after this kingdom. The apostles taught that we should seek after this kingdom. It is a sign of strong faith when we believe what Jesus and the apostles taught and we trust that there is indeed another age coming. Those who lack faith live for the now. Those who exercise faith live for the next age.

 

We have established that the rewards, which are according to works, are given in the next age, the kingdom age, the age which follows after this current age. The rewards have to do with the millennium or kingdom of God to come.

 

Now we are in a position to answer the question about the unfaithful Christian, for the rewards for unfaithfulness similarly have to do with the nest age.

 

  1. What happens to the unfaithful, yet genuine, Christian who dies in a state where they have not overcome? The answer is that they are excluded from the kingdom. They will not rule and reign with Christ.

 

Let us now consider our text. In Hebrews, chapter four.

Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it.

 

The book of Hebrews was written to fellow believers in the Lord Jesus Christ. Yet the inspired author writes “let us” – he includes himself – “fear.” There is a place for fear in the Christian life. It is one of those motivators that the Lord has given to us because we care about what happens to ourelves

 

What is the rest that he refers to? It is not heaven, though it is later described as “heavenly.” “Heavenly” means that its origin is from heaven. All of God’s chosen ones go there upon death but that is temporary and our final destiny is the earth just as the final destiny for the Israelites after escaping Egypt was the good land.

 

It is not the eternal state where eternal life finally blooms in all its splendor. Every believer is promised that and it is assured.

 

The “rest” is the unshakable kingdom of God that is coming next. The author says as much in 12:28.

 

Verse 2 For good news came to us just as to them, but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened.

 

The good news here in context is the good news about the good land that the Lord had promised to give them. They had a promise from the Lord but they did not have faith that the Lord would do it. They looked at their own weakness instead of trusting in God’s provision.

 

They had already been saved from the wrath of God in Egypt. They had already been delivered from the wrath of Pharoah. They had already been baptized in the Red Sea. They believed in their leader, Moses. Paul even tells us in I Corinthians 10 that in the wilderness the Israelites were sustained by Christ Himself.

 

What they failed to believe is that the Lord could take them and plant them in the good land. Because they failed to believe the Lord did not do it for them.

 

Do not harden your hearts to the rest that awaits us still, a rest that the Lord is able to make you worthy of.

 

Verse 9 So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God,

The rest is still there. No one has entered it yet for the kingdom has not come in its fullness yet.

 

Verse 11 Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience.

We are commanded to strive to enter this rest. We do not strive for eternal life. That is a gift. But we should strive for the rest that is coming. Strive! Press into the kingdom! Mortify any disobedience that remains within you!

 

Verse 13 tells reminds us once again that we must give an account to the Lord for our life as believers. That account will be given at the Judgment Seat of Christ where it will be determined whether we enter that rest, the kingdom of God.

 

[Illus: The king and 2 sons]

 

  1. The final question is: If a disobedient Christian does not enter the millennial kingdom, the rest, where do they go?

 

Remember that passages as 2 Cor 5:10, which we looked at last week, and Colossians 3:25 explicitly teach that there will be discipline from the Lord at the Judgment Seat for believers. Nowhere in the epistles is this elaborated upon. But the Lord Himself did elaborate upon it. This where an understanding of the parables is quite helpful.

 

Parables like the Ten Virgins (Matthew 25:1-13), the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30), the Parable of the Wedding Feast ( Matthew 22:1-14), the Parable of the Faithful and Wise Servant (Luke 12:40-48), and the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant (Matthew 18:23-35) were all spoken and written to disciples, true followers of Christ. They were written to us! Each of these parables tell us that the unforgiving believer, the lazy believer, the one who did not pursue sanctification will variously:

 

  • have the door closed to them,
  • cast into outer darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth,
  • put into a place where the unbelievers are and receive either few or many stripes,
  • delivered to the jailers (tormentors, KJV) until all is paid.
  • In another place (Matthew 5:20-25), for those who are offended with their brother or sister, the Lord says that they will not get out “until they have paid every last cent.”

 

Each of these teachings by our Lord show that there is a place in the next age, outside the kingdom, where there will be discipline administered by the Lord. The discipline may be severe! It will not be until the discipline has done its work (“every last cent is paid”) that unfaithful believers will join the Lord in the New Heavens and the New Earth.

 

Some will not like to hear this, but it is what the Scriptures teach. It is what Charles Stanley admits. It is what Robert Govett and Watchman Nee taught. Of course, it does not matter that they taught it. Only whether it is in this book.

 

If we do not discipline ourselves then the Lord will discipline us in this life. If we do not cooperate with the Lord when He disciplines us here then we will be disciplined at the Judgment Seat and that discipline will last during the time of the kingdom age so that we will be ready for the New Heavens and the New Earth.

 

Remember Paul’s admonition (for I believe he wrote Hebrews) Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it.

 

It is time to believe that the Lord will make you able to enter that rest. It may be that He is simply waiting for you to get beyond hearing only and begin taking the word you hear to heart. If you do that He will make it happen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] Manser, M. H. (2009). Dictionary of Bible Themes: The Accessible and Comprehensive Tool for Topical Studies. London: Martin Manser.