WHAT SHALL I DO AT THE JUDGMENT BAR OF ALMIGHTY GOD
Dr. W.A. Criswell
4-6-66 12:00 p.m.
The message delivered at this hour concerns the great judgment morning. And as the sermon is delivered, you are at liberty to leave at any time, and all of us understand. For so many present, this is a busy lunch hour, and when you have to go, you be at liberty to do so without any feeling of disturbance at all. If you can stay until the last sentence and have to leave before that is spoken, why, you do so. This is not a service in which we are trying to minister to ourselves, as though we were to be placated, but it is for us downtown and all who would choose to spend this hour with us. The theme this forty-seventh year of our theater services has been "What Shall I Do?"
Monday, What Shall I Do In the Hour of My Death? Yesterday it was What Shall I Do in the First Five Minutes of Eternity? Tomorrow it shall be What Shall I Do With My Sins? And Friday, What Shall I Do With Jesus Who Is Called Christ? And today, What Shall I Do At The Great Judgment Bar of Almighty God? It is written in this Holy Word, Hebrews 9:27, "It is appointed unto men once to die, and after that the judgment."
All of us, you, I, all of us shall one day stand before the Lord God of this universe. There is a judgment for the Jew; there is a judgment for the Gentile [Acts 17:31]. There is a judgment for the saved [1 Corinthians 3:11-15; 2 Corinthians 5:10]. There is a judgment for the lost [Revelation 20:11-15]. All of us shall one day stand at the judgment bar of God. Every thing with which we are acquainted in life is moving toward that great appointed rendezvous. These astronomers tell us that our very universe is fleeing through space at an incalculable rate, going where? At the appointed day and time and place with God, these social eruptions in human history that carries us along with them, inexorably lead us to that great and final assize. And however our paths may diversify in this life, they will all converge someday at a common center before the throne of God.
All of us shall stand one day in the presence of God. The babe in the cradle reaching up its little hands is reaching toward the judgment day of Almighty God. That youth walking by with elastic tread is striding to the judgment day of Almighty God. That old man with crutch and cane is tottering to the judgment day of Almighty God. That rich man in splendid carriage is riding to the judgment day of Almighty God. That poor man dressed in rags and in want is walking to the great judgment day of Almighty God. The Christian with songs on his lips and with praises in his heart is pilgrimaging to the great judgment day of Almighty God. And that lost man treading underfoot the blood of the covenant, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace [Hebrews 10:29], is moving toward the great judgment day of Almighty God. All of us shall someday stand in the presence of the Lord.
This is the final accounting, the great consummation, the ultimate reckoning. The whole universe will be there, all God’s creation. Since the angels fell in heaven [Revelation 12:3-4] and since our very first parents fell in the garden of Eden [Genesis 3:1-6], with incomprehensible longsuffering, God has waited on the impenitent and the wicked to turn [2 Peter 3:9]. But there is a day coming, says God, "when His Spirit will no longer strive with man" [Genesis 6:3], and in that final age and in that day of ultimate consummation, we shall give a reckoning of our souls to the God who made us [Romans 14:10].
Of this, these Scriptures teach universally. In the parables of our Savior, the unjust steward [Luke 16:1-13], the laborers in the vineyard [Matthew 20:1-16], the parable of the talents [Matthew 25:14-30], of the pounds [Luke 19:11-27], all of them teach that the Master someday shall demand a reckoning on the part of His servants. The epistles reflect the same revelation as Paul avows in Galatians 6, "Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap" [Galatians 6:7]. And if we sow to the flesh, we shall reap corruption [Galatians 6:8]. If we sow to the wind, we shall reap the whirlwind [Hosea 8:7].
That same awesome truth is reflected in the Revelation. There the glorified Lord is presented as a Judge in His long flowing robes, and He is described as One whose eyes are as a flame of fire, piercing into the deepest secrets of the human heart [Revelation 1:13-14]. This final judgment day is an avowal of our conscience and of our reason [1 Corinthians 4:5]. Wrongs are not righted in this world. It must be, if it ever is, in a world that is to come. In the Revelation, John the sainted seer saw the souls of the martyrs of Christ under the altar crying unto God, "How long, O Lord? How long till Thou shalt avenge our blood poured out upon the earth?" [Revelation 6:10].
How many innocents have suffered at the hands of cruel and bloodthirsty oppressors? How many broken hearts are scattered along the highway of life? And these who broke them, the wastrels, have proceeded on to fame, to prosperity, to affluence, to riches, and these left behind drowned in their tears, lost in their sorrow. Is there not somewhere, someplace, sometime when there is a reckoning before God, the righteous Judge of all the earth? [Genesis 18:25]. And it is that fear of reckoning that brings pause to the human soul as he confronts death. We shall stand before God and then what? [Ecclesiastes 3:17].
When I was the pastor of a small church, there was a brilliant young man in the congregation who was employed by the bank, the First National Bank in the county seat town, little city. And he fooled – in his ingenuity and in his ingeniousness – he deceived the local officials and embezzled from the bank for the several years that the young man was there. Then came the day when the Unites States government, the FBI, the national bank examiners, when they descended upon him and the broken family came to me. I was so young. It was my first experience. I did everything I could in behalf of the family to help that mistaken and misled young man, and finally went with him to the big city and to the federal court. I was practically alone in the room there at the bar and that distinguished federal judge with his long flowing black robe. And the marshal came to the young man and said, "And you will stand there." And the young man stood before the judge, and the marshal standing there, and his lawyer standing there, and I seated immediately here.
The judge had a brief before him prepared by the attorney. He looked through it and turned the page briefly, then straight into the eyes of the young man, and asked, "Guilty or not guilty?"
And the young man replied, "Your Honor, guilty." And as I sat there and watched that boy and the judge and the marshal, I thought, is not this a symbol, a picture, a portrayal, a dramatic scene, of the whole universe, when we shall stand in the presence of God? "Guilty, Your Honor, guilty." That is the sting of death, and this sin is the strength of the law [1 Corinthians 15:56], and that is the pause before the eternity beyond the grave.
Do you not remember it; in Hamlet, as Shakespeare places in the voice of that noble prince in his contemplation of death and of suicide:
To be or not to be – to live, to die – that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of an outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles
And, by opposing, end them. To die,
, There is the respect
That makes calamity of such long life.
For who would bear the stings and whips
Of this time when he himself might his quietus make
With a bare bodkin? – He could take his life with a plain knife –
Who would fardels bear, who would burdens bear
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
Were it not for the dread of something after death
That country from whose bourn, no traveler returns
Puzzles the wills, and makes us rather bear the ills we have
Than fly to others we know not of?
Thus conscience doth make cowards of us all.
[Hamlet, Act III Scene I, William Shakespeare]
"Guilty, Lord. Guilty," standing in the presence of God. It is an awesome thing, and we each one face it. The Scriptures say to us that the great judgment of our souls will not be when we die [Hebrews 9:27]. I would have thought so, but as I read the Bible and think of its message, I can easily understand why that the judgment is not when a man dies but at the consummation of the age, at the end of time, at the close of history, because a man does not die when he dies. He continues to live in his influence and in his works. And God cannot judge the man until the end of history and the denouement of time, when all of what he has done and what he has met is unraveled in the tangled scheme of life, and the Lord judges it according to what we have wrought [Romans 2:6; 2 Corinthians 5:10].
From Amarillo, one of my dear friends in the high school senior class, one of my friends and I went to Baylor, and to my astonishment, to my amazement, he turned to be an infidel, a blasphemous one, an astonishing thing to me, and a burden to my heart. I went to his room one evening to see him, to talk to him about the Lord and about the faith. I knocked at the door and when he invited me in the room, I looked on the table. He had been reading a book. It was the infidel Tom Paine’s The Age of Reason. Why, my friend, Tom Paine has been dead more than a hundred fifty years, but the influence of the life of the infidel continues on and reached into the heart of that immature boy.
The judgment will be at the end time because we don’t die when we die. It’s at the end time because the judgment does not concern whether we are lost or saved. That judgment is now. I’m lost or I’m saved now. And in the hour of my death, I’m either lost or I’m saved. That judgment is now. As the Lord wrote:
He that believeth is not condemned –
he is not judged –
but he that believeth not is condemned, is judged already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
We’re not judged whether we’re lost or we’re saved. That judgment is now in a decision that I make before God in my soul now. But we shall stand at the final judgment bar of God to receive the rewards of the things done in the flesh [2 Corinthians 5:10]. The Christian shall stand; the saved child of God shall stand at the bema of Christ, the raised dais upon which the Lord shall sit when He rewards those who have been His disciples in the earth.
And one of the things that I read in the Bible that, ah, is so astonishing to me, is that these whom Jesus rewards at the bema of Christ are so surprised. They’re overwhelmed. "Why, when," say they to the Savior, "when did we see Thee poor, or naked, or hungry, or sick, or a stranger, and ministered unto Thee?" And the Lord shall reply, "When you stood by that open grave, that was My child lowered into the ground. When you brought food to that empty table, it was My house at which you knocked. And when you prayed in the hour of My sickness and sorrow and distress, you bowed your head in My presence. Insomuch as you did it unto one of the least of these, you did it unto Me" [Matthew 25:34-40].
And the righteous are surprised at the reward of God. Who shall sit on His right hand and on His left hand? Peter? Paul? He didn’t say so. He said, "Nay, it is reserved for those whom God hath chosen" [Mark 10:40]. And it may be our own amazement in that consummating hour to see some little sweet humble mother, yours, mine, seated there next to Jesus in glory, because God doesn’t judge as a man judges. Not by the sight of His eyes or the hearing of the ears, but God judges by the soul and the heart. And the lost shall stand at the great white throne judgment:
And I saw them, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened: [which is the Book of Life]: and they were judged by the things written in the books, according to their works.
"Whosoever was not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire" [Revelation 20:15]. And the wicked, and the rejecting, and the lost shall stand at the judgment bar of God, and the books are opened, and they shall be judged by the things written in the books [Revelation 20:11-15].
Oh, I often think of these men who make money out of the weaknesses of the human race; families debauched, children orphaned, lives ruined, but they are enriched now! But someday when they stand in the presence of God, then what? And do you notice, "And another book is opened, which is the Book of Life" [Revelation 20:12]. For the righteous Judge shall see carefully in that day there is no miscarriage of justice.
Before the man is sentenced, God turns to the recording angel and says, "Search the Book of Life. See if his name is written on the page bright and fair."
And the angel searches and replies to God, ‘His name is not there. He never turned. He never trusted. He never looked in saving faith to God. His name is not there." And that man shall stand in the presence of Almighty God and say, "But, Lord, You don’t understand. Lord, wait! Let me speak! Let me explain!" And God shall say, "Why, sir, you have all eternity in which to make out your case."
"Ah," says this man at the judgment bar of God, "You don’t understand, Lord, You don’t understand! Lord, I never turned. I never believed. I never trusted. I never confessed, Lord. Lord, there were too many hypocrites in the church!"
"Oh, too many hypocrites in the church? Did I say anything to you about hypocrites in the church? Did not I send My Son to die for your sins? [John 3:16-17, 5:24]. Did I not say believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved?" [Acts 16:30-31].
"Oh, but God, You don’t understand! Let me speak! Let me speak, Lord! I was waiting for a great feeling, a mighty experience!"
"Oh, sir, did I say anything to you about a great feeling or a mighty experience? Did I not speak to you of my Son who shed His blood for your sins [Matthew 26:28; 1 Corinthians 15:3], believe on Him, and thou shalt be saved?" [Acts 16:31].
"Oh, but God, You don’t understand! Let me speak, Lord! I was involved in the things of this world. I was making money. We were in, oh, such a time of pleasure and pursuit."
"Ah, but did I not say it is appointed unto men once to die, and after that the judgment? [Hebrews 9:27]. And did I not say the soul that sins shall die? [Ezekiel 18:20]. And did I know say the wages of sin is death?" [Romans 6:23].
Ah, what shall a man say at the judgment bar of God when he refuses the overtures of grace, and the angel looks through the book, "And whosoever was not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire" [Revelation 20:15]. That’s why the Lord said when the seventy returned, O Lord, the spirits are subject unto us [Luke 10:17], the Lord said, "Rejoice not that demons are subject unto you, but rejoice that your name is written in the Book of Life" [Luke 10:20]. All else is extraneous and peripheral.
I close. Reading the newspaper, to my astonishment, a sports writer was repeating a testimony of Bobby Richardson, or is it Bobby [Richardson]? He’s the second baseman of the Yankees. I’m not familiar enough with it all to keep up with it, but this made an impression upon me. "Bobby Richardson," he said, "has number one on his uniform in the Yankee lineup. Has been with them over ten years," he said, "and is a remarkably fine baseball player." Well, I read what that second baseman avowed, and I was overwhelmed. Why, he’s better than a preacher, and he closed his testimony with a little poem that I copied down. It is called "God’s Hall of Fame." And that Yankee baseball player said:
I tell you friend, I wouldn’t trade my name, however small,
That’s written there beyond the stars in that celestial hall
For all the famous names on earth or glory that they share.
I’d rather be an unknown here and have my name up there.
["God’s Hall of Fame," Bobby Richardson,1995]
Amen, Lord! O Lord, is my name written there on the page bright and fair? Tell me, Jesus, my Savior. Is my name written there? And our Lord, O bless us in the awesome responsibility of this life that we live not as wastrels and unrepentant, but that we live as unto God, knowing that someday we shall stand before Thee and give an account of the deeds done in the flesh [2 Corinthians 5:10]. And may it be our insuperable, incomparable gladness to hear our Savior say, "Well, done, good and faithful servant. . . enter thou into the joy of thy Lord" [Matthew 25:21]. Amen.
WHAT SHALL I DO AT THE JUDGMENT BAR OF ALMIGHTY GOD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
I. We shall all stand someday before the God of the universe
A. A judgment for the Jew, the Gentile, the saved, the lost(Ezekiel 20, Matthew 25, 2 Corinthians 5, 1 Corinthians 3, Revelation 20)
B. Everything is moving toward the great, final consummation
C. The tremendous final reckoning, the last accounting
1. Since the revolt of the angels in heaven, since the fall of man, the Lord has waited on the impenitent and the wicked to turn
2. But there is a day comingâ€¦(Genesis 6:3)
II. This is the universal testimony of Scripture
A. Jesus and the parables
B. The Epistles (Galatians 6:7-8)
C. The Revelation (Revelation 1:13-14, 2:18, 6:10, 19:12)
III. This is the universal testimony of reason and conscience
A. How many innocents have suffered?
1. Is there not somewhere a reckoning?
B. Fear of reckoning brings pause to the human soul as he confronts death
1. Young man in my congregation pleads guilty for embezzling
2. Hamlet – "Conscience doth make cowards of us all."
IV. When will it happen?
A. Scriptures reveal judgment not at death, but at end of the age
1. A man does not die when he dies – his works, influence live on
a. My friend, influenced by Tom Paine’s The Age of Reason
2. Final judgment does not concern whether we are lost or saved, but with our deeds(John 3:18, 36, 2 Corinthians 5:10)
a. Christian shall stand at the bema of Christ(1 Corinthians 3, Matthew 25:34-40, Mark 10:40)
b. Lost shall stand at great white throne judgment(Revelation 20:11-15)
B. Lest any mistake, miscarriage of justice, God has recording angel search the Book of Life(Revelation 20:12, 15, Acts 16:31, Hebrews 9:27, Ezekiel 18:20, Romans 6:23, Luke 10:20)
C. Bobby Richardson