God Keeps Books
September 16th, 1987 @ 7:30 PM
2 Corinthians 5:9-10
GOD KEEPS BOOKS
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2 Corinthians 5:9-10
9-16-87 7:30 p.m.
Our message tonight is the most solemn to which we could ever address our thought or attention or prayers: God Keeps Books. It is a message concerning the two great final judgments. The judgment first of the Christian, of the believer in the Lord; and the judgment second of those who spurn and refuse the mercies of our Savior.
I read this in a newspaper:
The police, security and military intelligence agencies of the federal government are quietly compiling a mass of computerized and microfilmed files on hundreds of thousands of suspect American citizens, with the justification that an age of assassination, violent political descent, and civil disorder requires it. The government is building an array of instantly retrievable information on, quote, “persons of interest.”
The article then discussed the identity of those persons of interest. If the federal government is doing that, think what God is doing, who has been collecting data on every human being since the creation of the world. God is concerned with every act of man.
For example, in Luke 12, verses 2 and 3, Luke 12, verses 2 and 3:
There is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; neither hid, that shall not be known.
Therefore whatsoever ye have spoken in darkness shall be heard in the light; and that which ye have spoken in the ear in closets shall be proclaimed upon the housetops.
Even though works have nothing to do with our salvation, the record of every man and woman will be examined at the final judgment. You, every Christian will be called to account at the judgment seat of Christ.
We read from 2 Corinthians chapter 5, verses 9 through 11; 2 Corinthians 5, verses 9 through 11:
We labor, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of Him.
For we must all appear before the bēma, the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.
Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men.
[2 Corinthians 5:9-11]
We turn now to 1 Corinthians chapter 3, verses 12 to 15; 1 Corinthians chapter 3, let’s start with verse 11, “For other foundation can no man lay other than in Christ Jesus” [1 Corinthians 3:11]. Now to begin:
If any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, or wood, hay, stubble;
Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the Day shall declare it, it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is.
If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward.
If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: even though he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire, as though he were a man running naked outside of his burning home.
[1 Corinthians 3:12-15]
This is the judgment seat, the bēma of Christ. It is only for believers. The unsaved are judged at another place, at another time, at the great white throne judgment [Revelation 20:11-15]. But the bēma of Christ is the judgment seat before [which] every one of us shall someday stand [1 Corinthians 3:12-15; 2 Corinthians 5:10].
This judgment of believers will take place in heaven [2 Corinthians 5:10], during the time between the rapture of the church [1 Thessalonians 4:14-17] and the coming again, the second coming of our Lord to the earth [Revelation 19:11-16]. While God is pouring out His wrath upon the earth during the great tribulation [Revelation 19:17-21], in that period of time His children will be judged and rewarded in heaven [1 Corinthians 3:12-15; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Romans 14:10]. The church is caught away in the fourth chapter of the Book of the Revelation [Revelation 4:1], and the church is seen again in the nineteenth chapter of the Revelation [Revelation 19:11-14]. And between those chapters—chapters 4 when the church is raptured [Revelation 4:1] and chapter 19 when the church returns with her Lord [Revelation 19:14]—in that period of time the judgments of God are poured out upon this unbelieving and lost world [Revelation 4:2-19:14]. And at the time of this tremendous tribulation in the earth—at that time will be the bēma of Christ [1 Corinthians 3:12-15; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Romans 14:10], when those who believe in the Lord are judged and rewarded.
This bēma judgment does not concern our salvation: that judgment is here and now. “He that believeth [on Him] is not condemned, not judged: but he that believeth not is judged even now, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” [John 3:18]. Whether you are saved or lost, that judgment is now. Works have nothing to do with our salvation. Our salvation concerns our trusting in Christ. Ephesians 2:8-9: “For by grace are you saved. . . and that not of yourselves”: it’s not something you work for, “it is a gift of God: not of works, lest I should say, ‘I did it, look at me.’” Our salvation is a matter of God’s grace in response to our accepting Jesus as our Lord [Ephesians 2:8-9]. But what we do after we are saved is written down in God’s book, and He judges us at the bēma concerning our works.
The burning that is written: “If any man’s work abide . . . he will receive a reward. If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: though he himself will be saved” [1 Corinthians 3:14-15], just like a man running naked out of a house that’s on fire. This burning at the judgment of Christ refers to our works, not our salvation. We are not required to pay for our sins: Jesus paid for that on the cross. Romans 8:1 starts with that: “There is now no condemnation for them who are in Christ Jesus.” But we can be saved as if by fire [1 Corinthians 3:15]: all of our worthless works are burned up and we stand before God naked, nothing by which God could condemn us, could reward us or bless us [1 Corinthians 3:13, 15].
Our rewards are a demonstration of God’s loving grace. We are saved by grace, we are kept by grace [Ephesians 2:8; 1 Peter 1:5], and all we shall have is the result of His grace [2 Peter 1:2; John 1:16]. It’s God’s goodness alone that so strengthens us and blesses us. For example, in the seventeenth chapter of the Book of Luke, Luke chapter 17, verses 7 through 10. Our Lord says in Luke 17:7-10:
But which of you, having a servant plowing or feeding cattle, will say unto him by and by, when he is come from the field, Go and sit down to meat?
And will not rather say unto him, Make ready wherewith I may sup, and gird thyself, and serve me, till I have eaten and drunken; and afterward thou shalt eat and drink?
Doth he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I trow not. No, not at all.
So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do.
Which is a way of saying that when we stand before the bēma of Christ, even our good works do not command from God a heavenly reward: it is the grace of God that notices what we do, and it is the loving grace of our Lord that rewards us [Ephesians 6:8]. But when we offer to Him the sacrifices of a loving heart and the devoted work of our hands, in God’s goodness and mercy God rewards us [John 12:26]. And that is our crown in heaven forever and ever [1 Peter 1:4].
It is a solemn thought for me to remember that someday I shall stand in the presence of Christ. I shall give an account of every deed of my life. If it is worthless, I lose; if it is commendable, I gain. But everything that I do in life will be judged in the presence of my Lord. This is the bēma before which all God’s saved children shall someday appear [1 Corinthians 3:12-15; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Romans 14:10].
Now we turn to those who are lost. At the end of the Revelation, we have just read this awesome great white throne judgment [Revelation 20:11-15], and of Him who was seated on it, those who stand before Him are in terror. And in the presence of so awesome a judgment, the very heavens and earth flee away [Revelation 20:11]. There are no believers there. If you are saved, you will not be there. This is the judgment for the lost; and they are there to receive the payment and the reward for their works [Revelation 20:12]. The terror of that is referred to in Revelation 6:16 and 17. “They cry,” Revelation 6:16-17, “They cry to the mountains and the rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of Him that sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: For the great day of His wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?” And whether that lost man desires such a meeting with God or not, he will be there. The destiny of that lost man is finalized at death: he is never offered salvation again. He will stand at the great white throne judgment lost, no Savior, no Intercessor; he will stand there condemned. He refused the proffered goodness and mercy and love of Christ [Titus 2:11], and he dies without a Savior [Revelation 20:11-15].
The Judge upon the throne [Revelation 20:11] will be the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. John 5:22: “The Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son.” The purpose of the judgment is not to determine whether a man is saved or lost: we spoke of that in this earth now; that judgment is now. I’m either saved or I’m lost this minute. I’ve accepted the Lord or I’ve rejected the Lord this minute [John 3:17-18]. I’m justified in His love and grace and blood [1 Peter 1:18-19], or I have refused His loving friendship and care, and I die lost [John 3:17-18]. The purpose of this great white throne judgment is to determine the degree of punishment. There are degrees in hell. For example, in Luke 12, in Luke chapter 12, Luke chapter 12, verses 46 to 48, Luke 12:46-48:
The lord of that servant will come in a day when he looketh not for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in sunder, and will appoint him his portion with the unbelievers.
And that servant, which knew his lord’s will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes.
But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes.
There are degrees in hell. Not everyone will suffer the same in damnation and perdition. Those that have done the more wickedly will suffer the greater; and those who have not done wickedly will suffer the less. But whoever refuses the grace of God [Ephesians 2:8-9], is consigned to an eternal perdition and damnation called hell [Matthew 10:28]. In Revelation 20, [verse 15], they are confronted with the Book of Life. “Why did you never accept the Lord as your Savior?” And the terrible cost, in Revelation 20:15: “Whosoever was not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.” God has a book, and in that book are all the names of those who are saved [Revelation1 7:8, 20:12, 15, 21:27; Luke 10:20]. And if your name is not in that book, you are lost and eternally separated from God [Revelation 20:14-15]. The Bible calls it hell. It is described as a place of fire and brimstone [Revelation 20:10]; it is a place of condemnation and suffering [Revelation 20:10]. It is a place of darkness and separation [Jude 1:13]. It is eternal; it is forever and ever [Revelation 20:10].
I don’t have a second chance: my one opportunity to be saved is now; it is in this life [John 3:16-18]. And if I refuse it, and I die unforgiven, I am never given [John 9:41] the opportunity to retrieve what I have eternally lost, namely the salvation of my soul. That leads me, because of the seriousness and awesomeness of this revelation of God’s judgment, that leads me to speak of how I can be saved.
So many times is it in the form of an A-B-C. An A: admit that I am lost; I am a sinner, “All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” [Romans 3:23]. I am a sinner. That is the strangest thing to me: that lost people refuse to look at themselves and accept that judgment of God in their lives. I cannot understand it. There is not anything more apparent in human experience than that we are a lost and sinful people. No matter how I may seek to be good, no matter how I may strive to make myself perfect before God, I am, if I am honest with myself, increasingly conscious that I am a sinner. I have been a pastor, as I have so oft repeated, for sixty years; and the one common denominator of all mankind is this: we are lost sinners. There is a saying: “There’s so much good in the worst of us and so much bad in the best of us that it doesn’t behoove any of us to talk about the rest of us.” We are lost sinners, all of us. And the first step toward our salvation in Christ is to admit, “I am a sinner” [Romans 3:23].
A: admit. B: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved” [Acts 16:31]. Trust in Him, commit your heart and life to Him [Romans 10:9-10], look up to Him [John 3:14-15; Numbers 21:8-9], believe in the Lord Jesus Christ [Acts 16:31], open your heart heavenward and God-ward, and ask Christ to come into your life, cleanse you in His grace [Isaiah 1:18], pay the penalty for your sins in His blood [1 John 1:7; Revelation 1:5], be your friend and yokefellow and fellow pilgrim all the days of your life. I cannot understand why anyone would refuse to accept the loving companionship and friendship of the Lord Jesus. I cannot understand that. There is no one dearer in this earth than our Savior. There is no one more precious to talk to than to talk to Jesus. There’s no one more able to help us than the strong hand of our blessed, blessed Savior. Why would anyone choose to refuse the overtures and the appeals of the grace [Acts 17:30] of the blessed Jesus I cannot understand? It is so beautiful and so precious just to open your heart heavenward and God-ward, and say, “Lord Jesus, count me in. Put my name in the Book of Life; write it big, Lord, that I love Thee and give my heart and life and soul to Thee.” Why wouldn’t anyone want to do that?
A, [admit]; B, believe, C: confess Him openly and publicly. “Whosoever shall confess Me before men, him will I confess before My Father which is in heaven. Whosoever will deny Me before men, him will I deny before My Father which is in heaven” [Matthew 10:32-33]. Or Romans 10:9-10: “If thou shalt confess with thy mouth Jesus is Lord, and shalt believe in thine heart that He lives, that God raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart one believeth unto a God kind of righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”
A: I admit that I am a dying sinner [Romans 3:23]. B: I do believe in the Lord Jesus; with all my heart I do [Acts 16:31]. And C: with joy and gladness, without coercion, but out of the deep loving gratitude and thanksgiving of my soul, I do confess Jesus as my Lord and my Savior [Matthew 10:32-33; Romans 10:9-10]. It is that plain and that simple. And that’s our appeal to your heart tonight. Somebody you to give himself in faith to the Lord Jesus [Romans 10:9-10]; or having loved our Lord, confessed Him, coming into the fellowship of our dear church, “I want to be baptized as He commanded me [Matthew 28:19]. I’m a believer and a disciple, and I want to follow Him according to His Word”; or to answer the call of the Spirit of God in your heart, in this moment when we sing our hymn of appeal I’ll be standing right here, my fellow ministers loving God and you will be standing by my side, come, and welcome, “Pastor, this is God’s day and God’s time for me, and here I stand.” Do it, and may angels attend you in the way while you come, while we stand and while we sing.
American government collecting data on “persons of interest”
has been collecting data on every human being since creation(Luke 12:2-3)
Though works have nothing to do with salvation, the record of every man will be
examined at the final judgment
II. The judgment seat of Christ – the bema(2 Corinthians 5:9-11, 1 Corinthians 3:11-15)
is only for believers
Takes place in heaven, during time between rapture and second coming(Revelation 4, 19)
Bema judgment does not concern our salvation – that is here and now(John 3:18)
Works have nothing to do with our salvation (Ephesians
burning at the judgment of Christ refers to our works(1 Corinthians 3:14-15, Romans 8:1)
Our rewards a demonstration of God’s loving grace(Luke
III. The great white throne judgment
judgment is for the lost – no believers there
The terror of it (Revelation 6:16-17)
Destiny of the lost man finalized at death
The Judge upon the throne will be Christ Himself(John
Purpose of this judgment is to determine the degree of punishment(Luke 12:46-48, Revelation 20:15)
Confronted with the Book of Life (Revelation 20:12)
IV. Salvation a simple A-B-C
Admit you are a lost sinner(Romans 3:23)
on the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 16:31)
Confess Him openly and publicly (Matthew
10:32-33, Romans 10:9-10)