Is There A Judgment?
March 26th, 1986 @ 12:00 PM
IS THERE A JUDGMENT?
Dr. W. A. Criswell
3-26-86 12:00 p.m.
The theme for the services this year is “God-Answered Questions”; Monday, Is There a Hell? Yesterday, Is There a Heaven? Tomorrow, Does My Soul Live Forever? On Friday, Can the Blood of Christ Save Us? And today, Is There a Judgment? Finally, ultimately, do all of us face a final judgment? In the twenty-fifth chapter of the Book of Matthew, beginning at verse 31:
When the Son of Man shall come in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then shall He sit on the throne of His glory:
And before Him shall be gathered all nations: and He shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats:
He shall set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left.
Then shall the King say unto them on His right hand, Come, ye blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.
Then follows all of those things: “I was hungry, and you fed Me: I was thirsty, and you gave Me drink: I was a stranger, and you took Me in: I was naked, and you clothed Me” [Matthew 25:35-36]; and on and on. What do you think about that?
To begin with, on the surface it violates every doctrinal revelation we know in the Bible. We are not saved by our philanthropies, nor do we buy our way into the kingdom of God. I don’t find myself welcomed into heaven because I have given money to charitable causes, and I have worked in civic enterprises; yet that’s what the Lord says here. “Come, ye blessed of My Father, I was hungry, and you fed Me: I was naked, and you clothed Me: I was a stranger, an outcast, and you took Me in” [Matthew 25:35-36]. There must be something more than what I read here casually, peripherally. And it is very plain.
This scene of the great judgment day of Almighty God is chronologically after He comes again. That’s the way it’s introduced; “When the King shall come in His glory” [Matthew 25:31]. And our Lord returns in the nineteenth chapter of the Apocalypse, of the Revelation; in the nineteenth chapter after the days of the terrible tribulation [Revelation 19:11-16]. And there’s another key word in this judgment scene. They are divided according to the way they have done “unto My brethren,” our Lord’s brethren. The King shall answer and say, “Inasmuch as you have done it unto these My brethren, you have done it unto Me” [Matthew 25:40]. Well, who are they—His brethren?
According to that same apocalyptic revelation, His brethren are those one hundred forty-four thousand Jewish evangelists; who were sealed in the seventh chapter of the Revelation [Revelation 7:1-4]. They went forth proclaiming the saving message of Christ to all the people of the earth in the days of those terrible tribulations. And the reaction was twofold then, and it is twofold now. There were those who received the messengers of God and the gospel of grace. There were those who rejected the messengers of God and the gospel they preached. And the separation is twofold. There were those who were welcome into eternal life; these are they who opened their hearts to the gospel, who received the messengers of God, and believed on the name of the living Lord; the others rejected the messengers of our Lord, refused the gospel; and they were assigned to eternal perdition [Revelation 20:4-5, 12-15].
I have said so many times from this sacred place the same principles of the Lord God obtain through all generations, and through all eras, and through all dispensations. Whether it is up there in heaven or down here in earth, we’re all alike; morally responsible, sensitive to the call of God; and our reactions are the same. So what shall happen at the end of the great tribulation, the great judgment day is the thing that happens now. When the messenger of God comes with the gospel of Christ, there are some who will turn, and receive, and believe, and be saved. There are some who reject; they have nothing to do with the precious message of grace, and are lost. And that rejection of the messenger of Christ and the message of hope that he brings is of all things the most tragic and the most terrible of all of the reactions and responses in life. There is nothing comparable to it. The rejection of Christ broke His own heart; He wept over the city of Jerusalem [Luke 19:41]. “How oft,” He said, “would I have gathered your children together, as a hen gathereth her brood under her wings, and you would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate” [Luke 13:34-35]. And He wept over His people [Luke 19:41].
That is the urgency that you find in the ministry of the preaching of the apostle Paul. “Remember,” he said to the Ephesians elders, “by the space of three years I ceased not day and night . . . with many tears . . . from house to house . . . preaching repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ” [Acts 20:19-21, 31]. And that is the urgency of the message that lies back of every true preacher in the world. I spoke yesterday of Richard Baxter, living in the 1600s, a mighty theologian and preacher, who was so persecuted and imprisoned. He was a marvelous writer. And one of his couplets is this: “I preach as never to preach again, as a dying man to dying men.” The world is so lost, tragically, irretrievably, judgmentally, the world is so lost.
The body of a young woman, a girl, was found. Unidentified, the morgue placed an advertisement in the paper, in the newspaper, inviting anyone who might know her to come and identify the body. I thought nothing of that when I read it; I could understand that. This poor girl was found dead, and who is she? Does anybody know? And the morgue invited the whole reading public, “Come and see if you can identify this young woman.” I was not amazed at that. But what amazed me was this: there was a stream of fathers and mothers, who came day and night to look at that body to see if it was their girl. The tragedy of this lost world is beyond tears, it’s beyond sorrow, it is beyond description.
And when we read here in the sacred Word of these inevitable judgments, is that because the heart of God is unkind? Is God cruel and brutal, thus to speak in His holy Book? Is it unmerciful that the Lord shows us such a thing? Contrariwise, it is a reflection of the love and goodness and kindness of God. Driving down a road, a highway; suddenly there’s a bar across the road, and there are red lights that flash, and there are signs, “Stop!” The railroad has placed it there. Is it unkindness on the part of the company that they do such things? Is it not rather a kindness to us, a mercy to us; “This great freight is coming, stop!” Or again, looking on a bottle; there’s a skull and cross bones on it. Is the Drug and Food Administration unthinking and unkind that they put that on the bottle? “This is a poison.” And in mercy and kindness, the Administration warns us. Or a father and a mother speak to their children; discipline their children, warn their children: is it an unkindness on the part of the father and mother that they thus seek to warn the child of the possibilities of hurt? If the father and mother love the youngster, they will give themselves to that discipline and that teaching. It is thus with our Lord God in heaven.
You know, I often think when that liberal minister stands before his congregation, and he says, “Yea, yea, did Jesus say that you will face an inevitable judgment and be turned into everlasting punishment, yea did Jesus say that? there is no such thing as a final judgment, and there’s no such thing as an eternal punishment.” Every time I read that, or hear that, on the part of a liberal minister, I think of the scene in the garden of Eden when Satan said to Eve, “Yea, did God say, that in the day you eat thereof, thou shalt surely die, Thou shalt not surely die” [Genesis 3:1-4]. O God, what shall I do in the face of the revelation of Almighty God? It is out of His mercy and kindness that God reveals these issues and finalities of life to us.
There is a deep undertone in history, in experience, in every sermon that the pastor preaches; namely, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” [Hebrews 10:31]. “He that hath the Son hath life; he that hath not the Son hath not life” [1John 5:12]. It is not a matter of choice, indifference. I can join the club or not, doesn’t matter at all. I can go here or there, doesn’t matter at all. I can eat at this restaurant or that restaurant, not at all. I can buy this suit or that suit; or this dress or that dress. I can live here or live on that street. This is a matter of life and of death, as I face the judgment day of Almighty God; and that is why we turn in the desperation of our lives to the hope we have in Christ Jesus. We have no other salvation; there is no other way [Isaiah 45:22; John 14:6; Acts 14:12]. This alone can deliver our souls from death and present us someday in the presence of the angels of God in heaven [Luke 12:8]; there is no other way.
As most of you know, I talk to every child, every child who comes down this aisle, everyone of them. Don’t have to; these assistant pastors could do it better than I; but I choose to do it. It does something to my heart, my own heart, to talk to these children. And they’re to bring their fathers and mothers with them, the father and the mother bring the child. And I sit down in the study here at the church, and I talk to the youngster. And it goes like this: “If Jesus is a Savior; He would necessarily have to save us from something. What does Jesus save us from?” And the answer: “He saves us from our sins” [Matthew 26:28; Mark 2:1-11; 1 John 1:7] “And what is sin?” “Sin is disobedience to God, it is breaking the law of God, it is doing wrong.” And the question: “Who has sinned?” “All of us have sinned, and come short of the holiness, and purity, and glory of God; all of us have sinned” [Romans 3:23]. “And what is the penalty God has joined to sin?” And they always move together; that penalty, that judgment, and the answer: “The wages of sin is death” [Romans 6:23]. I die physically, and I die spiritually; I am shut out from the presence of God [Ezekiel 18:4; Romans 6:23].
Then the all important question follows: “Who can save us from that penalty, that judgment?” And the child answers, “Jesus our Lord” [Acts 16:30-31]. Then I say to the child, “Your father and mother cannot save you, all they can do is watch you die; they cannot save you. I cannot save you; all I can do is conduct a memorial service. The church cannot save you, all the church can do is provide a place in which the memorial hour can be observed and celebrated. Only Jesus our Lord can save us. There is no other way; it is He and He alone” [Acts 4:12]. And that’s why we praise His name, for His wondrous goodnesses to us, His mercy and kindnesses to us; as Dr. Heron prayed in his prayer, “O Lord, what a Savior, what a hope, falling on the arms of God.”
When I was reading history, I was interested in one of the conquistadores, his name was Francisco Coronado. He was a Spanish explorer who saw for the first time, these vast, flat plains of Texas. In his journeys they said to him, “There’s a river to the west.” And in his exploration, the days passed, and the days passed, and the days passed, and there’s no water, and his troop was dying of thirst. Where is that river to the west? On a final day, the commander of the troops said, “We are perishing, and only the arms of God can save us.” In one last effort, before they died of thirst, the little troop came to the brow of a hill; and there in the valley below ran that beautiful river. And the commander, looking on that stream of living water, raised his voice and said, “Los brazos de Dios,” the arms of God. And they named the river “Rio Los Brazos de Dios,” the Brazos River, the Arms of God River. Every time I see it, and every time I read it, I think of that story; the Arms of God River. The water of life is like that to us. The arms of God alone can save us. Oh, praise His name! Bless Him forever that He thus reaches down in love and mercy to us. And our Lord in that paean of praise, we bless Thy name forever, wonderful Savior. Amen.
are not saved by our philanthropies
scene of the judgment day (Revelation 19:11-16)
basis of judgment: how they received His brethren (Matthew
25:40, Revelation 7:9-14)
1. Those who
received were welcome into eternal life
2. Those who
rejected were assigned to eternal perdition
D. Same great division
and separation today
II. The terrible reality (Hebrews 9:27)
A. Broke the heart of
Jesus (Luke 19:41, 13:34-35, Matthew 23:14-15,
B. Urgency of Paul (Acts 20:20-21, 31, Romans 9:1-3)
C. In the motive of the
2. Girl found
III. Is God unkind in this revelation?
A. A merciful
revelation (Matthew 25:46)
true preacher (Acts 20:27)
minister who says, “Yea, does Jesus sayâ€¦” sounds like Satan (Genesis 3:1-4)
IV. Casting ourselves upon the mercies of
death, judgment (Hebrews 9:27, Romans 3:23, 6:23)
The “Arms of God” river